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New director talks about Unity Center

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Angie Gomez, the new events director at the Unity Center, stands on the basketball court outside the center with Tommy Sanez, an employee at the center. Gomez, known for her work as a co-founder of the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition, took over as events organizer in January. (Alex Ross Photo)

For the past two months the Unity Center has had new leadership.

Angie Gomez, co-founder of the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition, became the center’s director in January, after the resignation of the center’s longtime director Bobby Garcia.

The center, located at 108 E. Bland St., is free and open to youngsters on weekday afternoons and evenings. It also is a venue for special events.

A mother of four, Gomez said she likes to think of her job as being that of a “Unity mother” to the 15 to 30 children who come to the center each day.

The center is a place that Gomez said she strives to make feel like home for youth, a safe environment on the east side of Roswell where they can come after school.

“Some time this is their home away from home and that is what I wanted to create for them,” she said in an interview.

Gomez was born in Wisconsin, but has lived in Roswell since her mother moved her down to the Pecos Valley when she was young. Gomez graduated from University High School in 1998.

She added that it was the death of her daughter Tessa — then 14 years old — that drew her interest in working with young people.

Gomez said that before then, she was a stay-at-home mom.

She then launched the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition, holding events to raise awareness about suicide and working with young people.

“So I just started with that, and just ever since then my passion has been these kids because without them we don’t have a future,” she said.

The first few months have presented some challenges, but she has begun to establish a bond with the youth.

Gomez said that like Garcia, she believes the Center is a place where young people can come to socialize and be safe.

However, she said that she wants to create a more active environment at the center.

“I don’t let the kids be lazy here, like we always do something around here,” she said.

And Gomez seeks to do that with the youth, whether it be playing basketball, pool or video games.

Wednesday night the Center hosts a dinner for the young people with food provided by Eli’s Bistro, and the Center will remain a venue for musical acts that range from the local to those passing through Roswell.

Gomez though said she hopes the center can not just be a place where young people go to have fun, but also provide them skills they need to become adults.

She said that she wants to get in touch with some possible tutors who can help some of the youths with their homework. Other activities she hopes to bring to the center include building a garden outside the center maintained by the young people. She is currently looking for donated materials to do that.

Gomez said the center has received a sander and will teach young people how to repurpose furniture.

“I think that just teaching them things is very important at such a young age,” she said.

Gomez said that her two sons, Jaylien, 10, and Chael, 8, often come with her to the center and they fit in well with the others at the center.

Like with her own children, she said that each day she asks the youngsters who come to the center how their day was.

And she said that she has really learned a lot from the young people who visit the center, who she said are incredibly loyal. She also admires some of those come from rough neighborhoods who she said are fearless and have taught her not to be afraid.

“Just take a leap of faith is what they have taught me,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to jump in full force.”

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.