By Curtis Michaels
Roswell Daily Record
On Saturday, Oct. 3 you could have changed the future of Roswell. But don’t worry, you’ll have more opportunities over the year, and for many years to come.
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell hosted the Youth Leadership Conference, where 57 students from Roswell and the surrounding area learned some of the basics about leadership.
These students came from the public school systems, from the New Mexico Youth Challenge Academy, the Upward Bound TRIO programs, ENLACE, New Mexico Job Corps Roswell Center, The Unity Center, and Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Presidential Scholars. What they have in common is that they are leaders among their peers.
This was the first year for the Youth Leadership Conference, and planners expect it to grow as Roswell better prepares its youth to make their way in the world.
The Youth Leadership Conference was put on by the Educational Opportunity Center. EOC program director, David Valenzuela, tells the students, “We want you to think about your duty as citizens.”
The students were taught about the political process. They learned about right and the left, the democratic process and about running for office.
Encouraged to express their observations and opinions, they had plenty to say.
“I don’t think they care about us, I think they care more about money than us,” one boy said.
“I think Trump pretends to know about people but he doesn’t. He’s disrespectful.” Said one girl.
Nicholas Burdzy, a student from Job Corps, said, “If you don’t have politics, you don’t have democracy.” “Yes, politics does have a place but people have to speak up.” “Politics starts in the home.” he concluded.
The ENMU-R Student Activities Committee provided lunch and the college-themed door prizes as well as free use of the room
Bobby Villegas Insurance and Melissa Urban of Nifty Fifty provided the remainder of the door prizes.
Earlier this year, the Hispanic Leadership Summit Committee hosted a leadership program for adults when the idea of teaching leadership skills to the youth was brought up.
The targeted age group is known as Generation Z, and consists of those born after 1994; the oldest of them turns 20 this year.
According to the US Census, Generation Z will eventually reach 80 million people and they already account for more than $200 billion in spending power when you include their influence on parents.
This generation tends to be independent. They’ve never known a time when the US was not at war. They’ve never known life without accelerating technological breakthroughs.
This is a group that lives and lets live. If you don’t get in the way of their ideas, they don’t care what you do.
They want autonomy. They want to express themselves.
This is the generation that will move our country into the middle of the century. They will see more technological advancement in their lives than has happened in all previous known generations.
So, how might you have changed the future of Roswell earlier this month?
The same way you still can.
Do you know a teen, from middle school to 18, who has an interest in leading or working with leaders?
Do you have ideas that might help Roswell’s teens find their voices and feel relevant in the city?
Do you want to participate or to support this effort to give Roswell’s kids a better future?
Contact Valenzuela at the Educational Opportunities Center, 624-7206.
The Unity Center is sending kids to the Hoby Leadership Conference in December.
The Youth Leadership Committee is sponsoring a leadership conference for middle school kids in March.
Roswell’s youth outnumber our working-age adults and our retirees. They are finding their voice, and we need to hear them.
“We want kids of all ages thinking about being better, more productive citizens of Chaves County.” Valenzuela says.
Toward that end, the EOC, Embrace, the Hispanic Coalition, and Roswell Job Corps along with people like Carolyn Vigil, Academic Counselor at ENMU-R are reaching out to teens and pre-teens with an eye toward helping them to have the same sense of ownership in our community that their elders have.
According to Villegas “Generation Z will cover 26 percent of the population, 72 percent will want to own their own business, and 76 percent of them believe in contributing to their country.”
Capt. Robert Riley, commandant of the New Mexico Youth Challenge Academy, says, “The cadets will bring today’s experience back to their platoons, and integrate it into their leadership style. We help them find their own leadership style. We don’t want to create ‘cookie cutter’ style leaders.”
Supporting our children now, as they begin to build life-strategies, is not only in their best interest, but also in Roswell’s best interest, as they are Roswell’s future.
You can change Roswell’s future by joining in, whether you volunteer with The Unity Center, help out with specific events like the leadership conferences happening throughout the year, or encourage teens you know to get involved. Roswell’s future is in their hands.