José Alonso Flores de Salazar, a graduate of the MHS Class of 2021, has already lived a life of adventure. José, also known as Alonso, was born in Mexico and did not move to the United States until he was in sixth grade.
His dad is employed by Mill Valley Dairy Farms, and Alonso says, “My dad started working near Milbank before the rest of our family came here. “At first,” Alonso says, “he planned to work in Milbank for a few years and then go back to Mexico. It was extended a year, and then another year, and another year. Finally, we started doing the paperwork for all of us to come here.”
Alonso was a soccer player in Mexico and had never picked up a tennis racket until he moved to the United States. He joined the tennis team at school when he was a sophomore. “I was in track in eighth and ninth grade, but I hurt my right leg and knew I wasn’t fast anymore. I wasn’t enjoying running because I wasn’t performing as well. One of my friends told me to try tennis, so I did.”
Alonso feels his tennis game is still a work in progress, but because of Covid restrictions, he only played two seasons. He says, “I was used to hitting things with my legs and doing a lot of running, and then I had to focus on using my arms.” He says he prefers to play doubles. “It makes it more fun playing with somebody else.” “I found it ironic that I was the ninth player for Milbank my sophomore year, and I was the ninth player my senior year, too” he added with a laugh. “But, I had considerably more successes this year and more wins than my first year.” When Alonso arrived in the United States and Milbank, he did not speak any English. But, true to the theory that it’s easier to learn a new language at a young age, Alonso says, “It only took me a couple of months before I was understanding conversations. I picked it up very easily. I was the first one in my family to start speaking English.” He says he felt pushed to learn English quickly because he needed to help his parents learn the language, and he also had to figure out how to read his phone. It automatically changed to English when he got to the US. “That was a challenge because all of a sudden it just changed, and I had no idea what it said.”
Alonso and his siblings began speaking English to each other most of the time at home. “I think they started to use it when they were doing something mischievous,” he says and laughs again. “My mother would hear them and say, ‘I heard that.'” “But,” he says, “They didn’t care because they didn’t think she understood.” The changes in food did not present as many challenges for Alonso. “We had our traditional Mexican food, but we also had steak and chicken. Things like that are everywhere, and we had it, too.”
Alonso has volunteered as an ESL interpreter for younger children in the community. He has also been an altar server for Spanish Mass and works as a translator. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends and playing video games.
Now, his next big adventure is just around the corner. Alonso leaves soon to attend South Dakota State University in Brookings. He plans to major in computer science.
“I probably will miss this small town and realize that when I get to college,” he says. He also plans to come back to Milbank after he graduates. “Milbank has been nice to me. Most of the people I know are here.”