By Curtis Michaels
Roswell Daily Record
Roswell has 7.5 percent more minors than other cities this size, according to census.gov. The same site says we also have 7.5 percent fewer working-age adults.
One clear story this tells is that many of Roswell’s children leave when they turn 18, and they don’t move back.
Enough stay gone to cause a negative impact on our economy.
Ask a few independent business owners if it is difficult to find good employees and too many will say yes it is.
It’s not that Roswell’s working-age residents are bad employees, it’s that there is more work than there are people to do it.
The long term answer is to motivate those 18 year olds to stay and start their lives and careers here at home.
There is a balance to be struck so that Roswell can grow into its fullest potential.
One way to do this is to engage the children from their earliest years, to teach them what it means to be a part of a community. This can only be effectively done by example.
One man who is dedicated to setting that example is Nathan Padilla.
Padilla is a licensed counselor with La Familia Mental Health Services, at 1717 W. Second. Street.
When a young man becomes a father before he is ready, Padilla is there to mentor him and teach him how to be the kind of father he truly wants to be. Padilla says “As a single father who started in recovery I can see where these young men are coming from.”
Drug-addicted and living without any focus or purpose, Padilla found out as a teen he was going to be a father. The thought of not being there to raise his son was enough to scare Padilla straight.
Over the past 17 years, Padilla has earned a few college degrees, and raised a son who makes him more than proud.
He founded Embrace in 2008 as a nonprofit umbrella that deals with societal taboos. These are subjects that nobody is talking about, but that need to be addressed.
With the support and faith of Jane Batson, Padilla has used Embrace to help start The Unity Center and the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition. Jane worked tirelessly with Padilla until her passing. Her husband Jack and their daughter Shannon are still on the board of directors of Embrace along with Bob Phillips and Sally Anderson.
Embrace started as a mental health and behavioral health service dealing with addiction and family issues.
Over time, Padilla found his call to service expanding and now Embrace reaches out to veterans, and helped with the veteran’s cemetery.
Embrace is the fiscal sponsor for Chaves County Health Council and health fairs. It helps Dr. Reynaldo Martinez with his monthly medical clinic for people with low income and no insurance, and it helps the Roswell Food Bank on the third Thursday of each month. The food bank operates a mobile food pantry that feeds 60 residents through the Road runner Food Bank and the Chi program at Sunset and Pecos Elementary schools.
It was Embrace that sent Jeneva Martinez to help Elwood Parkins, a local homeless man who had been duped into making an incriminating video to clear his name. Embrace later bought his tent community the generator they had been saving up for.
With all that Padilla and Embrace do, his eyes light in passionate fire as he talks about The Unity Center. He says, “Being a father has supported my work with The Unity Center.”
Bobby Garcia runs The Unity Center at 108 E. Bland Street.
The Unity Center hosts dances, has game days every week, and is available to rent for parties when parents want a safe space for their children to celebrate.
But the thing that clearly makes Padilla the proudest is the programs that The Unity Center offers to help local teens be more self-aware, more empowered and more involved in their community.
Saturday, Oct. 3, the Roswell Youth Leadership Conference was held on the campus of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. The event ran from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and had speakers on the subjects of participating in the political process, the importance of civic leadership, the importance of education and the process of going to college.
There were 50 participating teens from Roswell, Hagerman, Dexter, Lake Arthur and Artesia. There were also participants from the New Mexico Youth Challenge, Eastern New Mexico University Upward Bound and the Roswell Job Corps Center.
The teens who participate in this leadership conference will be supported to become leaders, and to teach much of what they’ve learned, to the younger children, ensuring they have the tools to mentor and to lead into adulthood.
Padilla, Garcia, Martinez and the countless others who work with Embrace understand that many members of society have never learned how to deal with painful emotions, how to believe in themselves, what to expect from participating in the political process and how to get things done within it, or how to maintain a sense of self when things get tough.
“We address generations of problems, and we help people to develop new ways of being. This is not rehabilitation, this is habilitation.”
Padilla says, “Everybody has unique handling instructions.”
It’s people like Padilla who are working on giving Roswell’s teens a real chance at a healthy and focused life, with the freedom to talk about the taboo and honestly express their feelings, that are going to turn Roswell’s economy around in the long run.