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Mason Lodge awards Bayfield High School student, among others

Durango Fire Protection District recognized for efforts in roof slide near Purgatory Resort
Chairman of the Masonic Scholarship Committee Jeff Jaeger awards Bayfield High School senior Amanda Fender with the Emory E. & Goldie Smiley Memorial Scholarship. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

The Durango/San Juan Mason Lodge honored students, teachers and first responders on Sunday in its first award ceremony since 2019.

Each year, the lodge identifies students, educators and first responders who have had remarkable accomplishments throughout the year.

“As masons, we hold education in a very high regard,” said Mason Worshipful Master Shawn Smith. “We know that having a good education is extremely important and the future is held in the hands of our youth.”

Jeff Jaeger, chairman of the scholarship committee, presented the Emory E. & Goldie Smiley Memorial Scholarship to Amanda Fender of Bayfield High School. Fender plans to attend Fort Lewis College after she graduates high school this spring.

Originally, Durango High School senior Amiah Hanson was awarded the scholarship but was eliminated from contention after she notified the committee Friday that she received a scholarship from Yale University and would be attending college out-of-state next fall.

In order to earn the scholarship, student must attend a college or university within the state.

“That was a great thing for her, and actually, a great thing (all around) because this was one of those years where it was a toss up as to who the winner should be,” Jaeger said.

Fender aspires to become a school counselor after attending college. Jaeger said she already helps fellow students who need someone to talk to.

The masons honored other students, law-enforcement officers and first responders at the ceremony attended by about 100 people at the Durango/San Juan Mason Lodge, 421 Turner Drive.

Durango Fire Protection District’s Dan Harshberger, John Learned and Mike Irwin were among those awarded Firefighter of the Year for their lifesaving efforts during a roof avalanche slide near the base of Purgatory Resort on March 16.

“All three were still buried when this crew arrived. Once they were dug out, one child was in cardiac arrest and one had significant face and chest trauma, and the dad was initially unconscious and regained consciousness after being dug out,” said Deputy Chief of Support Services Randy Black about the incident.

Battalion Chief Rod Allen said their skills as paramedics played a major role in the rescue and the resuscitation of one of the victims.

“Through their teamwork and grit, they made the best of an extremely difficult situation,” Allen said.

Ignacio High School teacher Mariah Klinger was given a Teacher of the Year award. IHS Principal Barb Fjerstad said Klinger is one of the hardest working teachers at the high school. She is the Future Farmer’s of America and agriculture teacher at Ignacio High School.

“It may seem like she works with a very small group of people but her influence upon that group of people is very, very large,” Fjerstad said. “She has incredibly high standards for not only her students that she works with, but everybody that she comes into contact with.”

Other awards presented:

Junior Students of the Year: Mia Bella Rodriguez and Kaifeng Liu, Animas High School; Meili Lovejoy and Mark Torres, Bayfield High School; Kristianna Brann and Trajan Garcia, Ignacio High School; and Bailey Noonan and Ethan Bustamante, Durango High School.

La Plata County Teachers of the Year: Amy Miglinas and Halie Forsthoff, Bayfield High School; Shasta Pontine, Ignacio Middle School.

Emergency Services Personnel/Firefighters of the Year: Matt Riggins, Upper Pine River Fire Department; Robert Sitton, Colorado State Patrol; Reid Brubaker, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office; Levi Bobian, Durango Police Department.


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