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Brian Arzola was named the Laramie County Retired Educational Personnel Citizenship Award winner from Pine Bluffs High on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, at the Red Lion Hotel. Arzola is a senior, and commutes to Pine Bluffs High from Albin. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Even though he’s still a senior in high school, Brian Arzola has his life pretty much planned out.

He’ll graduate from Pine Bluffs High in May. Then, he’ll attend Laramie County Community College to get his associate degree. Next, he’ll transfer to the University of Wyoming, getting his bachelor’s degree in secondary education, with an emphasis in art.

Brian loves art. Since fifth or sixth grade, he’s shown a desire to create. But he’s not only going into education because of his love of the arts. It’s also his passion for helping students, guiding them through the triumphs and tragedies that have befallen most, if not all, high school students.

He wants to provide an example, being a leader to usher future generations into college and the workforce. As a young man who’s been provided with plenty of examples in the same vein, he wants to follow in their footsteps.

Brian’s dedication to making his community better is the reason he was selected as the Pine Bluffs recipient of the Laramie County Retired Educational Personnel’s latest citizenship award. At their Monday meeting, Brian was awarded a certificate and a $100 award.

At the meeting, Brian was joined by his parents, Rocio and Agustin Arzola, as well as the Pine Bluffs High principal, Todd Sweeter.

Sweeter was the one who nominated Brian for the award, writing on the nomination form: “He is a quality young man. He has painted many murals for us, he translates and also tutors some of our ELL students.”

As a first-generation Mexican-American, Brian has made it a goal to help Spanish-speaking students ease into their new settings at the high school. He described how some of his classmates at the high school don’t speak English, and he works to facilitate communication between them and the English-speaking staff and students.

Brian was shocked when Sweeter alerted him to the news. He never imagined being recognized for something he does every day. It’s not about the praise he gets, though. He said it’s the work he does that fulfills him.

His parents’ reaction was a little different.

“My parents ... they always tell me they’re proud of me, but this time was different,” he said. “They got emotional.”

Although Brian was born in Mexico, he’s lived in Albin for most of his life with his parents and three siblings. As a child of immigrants, Brian admitted he’s dealt with discrimination and racism from other children. Even though he learned to defend himself from this type of bullying, he’s helped defend his siblings and other students when he sees something wrong taking place.

Examples like this are exactly why he wants to be a teacher when he leaves college.

“I love anything to do with art, and I want to be a teacher who helps kids succeed,” he said. “I don’t want them to just be hitting one benchmark.”

Many of his teachers sang Brian’s praises in their recommendation letters for him, noting what a great person he is.

“Brian is the personification of what it means to be a good human being,” Pine Bluffs High teacher Anthony Cox wrote. “He strives to make progress within every aspect of life while trying to make others a little brighter every day. I am proud and honored to have been able to teach and be part of this young man’s life.”

Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at elfylucille@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.

Ellen Fike is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at efike@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter @EllenLFike

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