SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – After hearing of the devastating fires in bordering Colorado, director of the Mountain Club at the Academy For Technology And The Classics in Santa Fe, Joaquin Martinez, knew he and his students had to help. “The key component is service and cultural and environmental restoration,” said Martinez. “And really these kids are inspired to see that when something needs to be done by someone, they realize they are someone.”

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Thanks to donations to a GoFundMe, the two students in the club were able to make the trip with Martinez. They drove up on a Thursday for a couple days to volunteer where needed.

“It was definitely a life-changing experience,” said Luz Ochoa, an eighth grader at ATC who made the trip. The group toured what was left of communities.

“If a house burns, that’s a tragedy. If a block burns, that in itself is a catastrophe. But we saw neighborhoods upon neighborhoods just reduced…It was just shocking that so much devastation happened,” said Patrick Riesterer, an eighth-grader at ATC who made the trip.

“It was very eerie. Just ash everywhere, an occasional chimney, burned-out cars,” said Martinez. But there was a bright spot in the people next to them, lending a helping hand.

“We bounced around so much just because there were so many volunteers. It gave me faith in humanity,” said Riesterer. The group helped organize donations at a Nordstrom’s for people to grab what they needed.

“With all these losses you would think people would be more, kind of down and stuff. But everyone was really stepping up,” said Ochoa. The club is back in New Mexico with a new perspective to share with their community.

“We’re learning that when we do for others, we find out that we’ve actually done something pretty special for ourselves as well,” said Martinez.

“It’s so easy to just help even a little bit. And, even helping just a little bit can change someone’s entire you know, day or life,” said Ochoa.

“Be grateful for what you have, but give what you can. Because we saw firsthand how much help good can come of people doing that,” said Riesterer.

The club has another GoFundMe to help them continue doing service work like this.