Good news for those who know of the important work being done by local Roger Montoya. He is one of 10 finalists for CNN’s prestigious Hero of the Year honor.
Through Dec. 3, vote for Montoya so that come Dec. 8, he is named the 2019 Hero of the Year. Voting takes place daily at https://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/vote/10/#. Participants get 10 votes a day until the voting period ends. Finally, it’s a legal opportunity to vote early and often.
Montoya is being recognized for his work with Moving Arts Española, the nonprofit that helps young people with arts classes, free meals, tutoring and various kinds of support. Art, education and community are offered daily as alternatives to drug addiction and dysfunction, helping children build better lives.
As Montoya said to CNN earlier this year, “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.”
Establishing a place where young people are both challenged and safe was not Montoya’s original life path. Working as a professional dancer in New York City, Montoya learned he was HIV-positive and returned home in the late 1980s. He turned to painting and regained his health. His ability to turn disappointment into service for others is another reason he has earned our support.
Art offered healing and hope, and he became determined to share that opportunity with young people. As CNN put it, Rio Arriba County is in the “heart of America’s opioid epidemic,” with one of the highest drug overdose rates in the country and nearly 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line.
What Montoya’s example shows is that individuals have power to change the trajectory of their lives. They can turn to positive influences — their culture, their families, healthy habits and creative outlets — to avoid becoming a tragic statistic. The work at Moving Arts Española helps make that happen. Voting for Roger Montoya to be named CNN’s Hero of the Year for 2019 honors not just his work but all the children who are overcoming obstacles in a tough community that deserves respect.
Rio Arriba County is much more than a place of trouble and sadness. It is a community where neighbors help each other and strive for better, where a young boy can follow his dream of becoming a professional dancer, and return home to share his gifts with others despite disappointment and tragedy in his own life.
In Northern New Mexico, we have known about Montoya’s contributions for years — The New Mexican named him one of its 10 Who Made A Difference back in 2000. Vote for him daily until Dec. 3. That way, we can help the rest of the country learn his story and discover the strength rooted in our corner of the world.