Amarah's Corner: Guess what - I found a hero!

Kids like me need a hero to support and encourage us in our interests and passions. A kid’s passion is that kid’s lifeline. Whether it’s band or sports, if it’s taken away it’s like taking your arms and legs off. I got so depressed and kind of blacked-out when I was kicked out of band because my grades ‘weren’t good enough.’ All I remember was depression and that’s when I started getting suicidal on top of everything with my mother’s addiction. It felt like my soul was broken when they took band away from me.

That’s like when they ask you, what do you want to be when you grow up? “Oh, I want to be a musician!” or “I want to be in sports!” Then, in middle school, the kids are doing what they love in band/sports, but their grades aren’t good enough, so they’re kicked out of band/sports. The sad truth is, they’ll probably end up doing drugs from depression.

Instead of kicking us out of band/sports, there should be an investigation of why the kid’s grades aren’t good enough!

I am excited to share Part 2 with you this week. It is imperative for kids like me (children of addicts) to be encouraged and supported in their passion which, for me, was playing the Trumpet, writing, singing, acting and dance.

Professional dancer opens arts center for kids living in the heart of America’s opioid epidemic, Part 2:

CNN’s Kathleen Toner spoke with Montoya about his work. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

CNN: What led you to create Moving Arts?

Roger Montoya: My partner Salvador and I were working in a program that I designed that brought arts into the public schools. During the school day we could see just a spark - the kids were like, “I love this. I want more!” We saw that an after school setting would give them more time to discover their passion. We also realized how valuable it would be during this critical period when school is out, mom and dad aren’t home. So, we said, “Let’s go to the superintendent. There’s got to be an empty classroom we can use,” and that was how we started. It was a reaction to the need that we saw in the community.

CNN: How does your program work?

Montoya: With all the classes we offer, we do charge $6 per hour of class time, to help pay the teachers, but we keep it absolutely as low as possible. If you’d go to Santa Fe, you’d pay two-to-three times that for a similar class. However, since about 50 to 60 percent of our families live below the poverty line, we have scholarships available and all sorts of ways to not turn anyone away.

We also provide a lot of services for free. We provide free vegetarian meals to anyone who comes through the door. Often the entire family comes, so it’s an inter-generational banquet. There’s that sense of family - la cocina.

We also have a free tutoring program. Graduation rates here are alarmingly low. Our tutors are high-achieving high school students - cool young kids - who are trained through a partnership with a local college. So, our kids can come in, eat a healthy meal, do a gymnastics class and then get one hour of targeted help. It’s a whole child-centered model. And the tutors, who are paid, are learning life skills, writing curriculum, tracking data. We’re also investing in them.

CNN: You also have a strong peer mentorship program.

Montoya: As kids reach that pre-teen stage of development, there’s a real strong need for them to feel like they’re in control, so we’ve crafted a really wonderful container for youth development where kids help younger kids. They have an older peer to look up to, but they can also fashion a way to share what they know. It’s remarkably useful in helping these kids find their spine. And the arts, it’s the perfect environment.

CNN: What is your ultimate goal?

Montoya: It’s about building resilient human beings who can think creatively and critically. When a young person is traumatized, they shrivel and close, and their world becomes very insular and dark. If they find a creative outlet, it begins to open. That’s really in a nutshell what Moving Arts is about. It’s a safe vessel of love. ~Kathleen Toner, CNN

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Mr. Montoya, You are a HERO to me, and to kids like me!

You are saving their lives, showing them that someone really cares about them, that they are worth saving! You give them hope instead of reinforcing the mental/emotional death warrant that comes with parental drug addiction and its ever-present evil: abuse-and-neglect. I wish you lived in Alamosa!

Thank You, for reading my column.

Remember, Jesus Loves You, and JESUS IS LORD!