Minnesota Nice: YMCA grants Thrive award to U of M grad, longtime volunteer

As a young adult, Kirsten Alfaro could easily just focus on her future, but she is just as concerned about shaping others'.

While in school at the University of Minnesota, Alfaro worked as a mentor at the YMCA on campus. Now, the Y is recognizing her and 37 other who give back throughout the metro with what they call the “thrive” award.

Alfaro worked with Literacy Matters, a program focused on giving kids a foundation of reading, writing, speaking and interacting.

"We say it so often: it's a space where you feel at home. This is my home away from home," Alfaro said.

That’s been the case for Kirsten since she was 12 years old, when her dad became a single father and turned to a YMCA camp for help with child care.

"That first summer together, my dad had no idea what to do with child care,” Alfaro said. “He was a single father, he was working two jobs. What's he going to do? We don't have school."

Alfaro knows the value of mentors, so she wanted to do the same for others. Soon, she will apply to medical school.

“Really having a mentor who looks like them, speaks the same language… [who] tells them they can be a college student, too…mentors are really life-changing." she said.