There is a better than not chance that much of what you know about The Unity Center in Roswell is wrong. Unless you’ve been active with them in the past three years, you can only know what The Unity Center used to be. It’s a dynamic place and change is a constant. The only thing that will never change at The Unity Center, according to its director, Bobby Garcia, is that it’s there for the kids.
“The Unity Center is completely free for teens to use,” Garcia said. “People think it costs money to come here and it doesn’t. We have air conditioning, wifi and computers. The only thing we charge for is snacks and drinks, but you can bring your own snacks and drinks, too.”
Garcia was dragged to The Unity Center as a kid by his older sister so he has been in the middle of most of its changes.
“It’s completely different from when I started,” he said. “I used to go to The Unity Center in 2004. That’s how I got involved. It was open twice or three times a month if that, maybe once a month. When we moved into this building we wanted it to be more than that.”
There is another common misconception.
“There’s a stigma that The Unity Center is for outcasts and troubled kids,” Garcia said, “but it’s not like that at all. We have kids from every group.”
The center keeps a busy schedule year round, during the summer they plan on adding to it.
“We’re open Monday through Friday from 11 to 4,” he said. “We’re still having our normally scheduled events. We’re still doing the game night on Wednesdays until 11 or 12 at night, concerts and dances.
“We recently bought board games and card games. We’re working on getting a basketball court in the parking lot, we still need about half the money to put that up. We have movie nights with popcorn.”
Garcia stresses that he is there to keep the building open and the kids safe, and to help where an adult is needed. The rest is up to them.
“We want the kids coming to us and telling us their ideas,” he said. “I’m here to take care of the place. It’s their center and I want them to contribute ideas and make things happen. A lot of kids asked to do a lock in. We’re wanting to do a freestyle art show where there is live music and people are painting on canvases. I’m up to anyone’s ideas.”
An idea born last year that took off will be repeated with more time to organize it this year.
“We’re going to have back-to-school haircuts in August or late July,” Garcia said. “This year, we’re hoping to have 10 people working all day. Last year, we had three people stay the whole day and they ended up cutting hair until midnight.”
Another first for The Unity Center was due to the generosity of Altrusa and a local business.
“We had a money management class at the end of April with Altrusa and Washington Federal,” he said. “We had 36 kids come out. Altrusa’s looking into doing another session. The turnout was good.”
Garcia’s vision will never be complete, he’s growth-oriented and will always aim higher.
“I’ve always thought of what I wanted The Unity Center to be like and it’s becoming more like that,” he said. “Our budget is on a shoestring and we depend on private donors. We’re trying to do more events. We’re wanting to redo the kitchen here so we can teach basic cooking stuff.
“We have a group of kids who are recording music here. They use the computers and we have equipment. They make beats and record their stuff here. We’re looking into converting the back room into a recording studio.”
One thing Garcia has no patience for is the common complaint of many in Roswell who stay home and don’t get involved in their community.
“When kids tell me ‘there’s nothing to do in Roswell,’ I tell them, ‘you don’t want anything to do,’” Garcia said. “There’s lots of things to do here if they’ll do them.”
Eastern New Mexico University— Roswell provides an intern for The Unity Center, her name is Juliette Baxter. Baxter likes the work, and already had an idea of what The Unity Center is about before she started.