ZIA Youth seeks empowerment for Raton’s young folks
by Sharon Niederman RATON — Not even Jeff McClean can explain how his 1,204 mile walk from Raton to Cincinnati in March, 2019 resulted in prime downtown space for his dream project. He set out on his walk to raise awareness for Raton youth in a project he called ZIA Youth, collecting donations of $1 a mile. His partner Linda Headley accompanied him in a support vehicle. While McClean and Headley saw a need to support the youth of the community with wholesome after school activities, they did not know what tangible form this support would take. But McClean, who works at the Raton Senior Center, and Headley provide evidence that dreams come true in ways you can’t imagine. As their vision for a safe place for kids 12-18 to congregate, have fun, study, and grab a snack took shape, they found a benefactor who believed in what they were doing. “I read the story you wrote in the World Journal about the things Kayvan Khalatbari was doing in Raton,” said McClean in an interview, “and I planned to write him a proposal.” Meanwhile, former Raton economic director and ally Jessica Barfield set up a meeting with Jeff, Linda and Kayvan only a month ago. He showed us a space in the Santa Fe Trails building he had acquired. He believed in what we were doing, and he offered to lease us the catalog store space rent free for a year!” McClean said. With space assured, McClean and Headley intend to open the ZIA Youth Center some time during the upcoming semester. They hope support will continue in the form of grants and donations. Community shows up with support Their first community event, a family BBQ and school supply giveaway will be held Saturday August 14, 11-4 at Roundhouse Park. The Lions Club will cook and serve lunch 11 am-1 pm. In a continuation of the outpouring of community support, Diana Sanchez of First National Bank Loan Production partnered with ZIA Youth, donating $900 plus matching all donations to their school supply drive. Information on ZIA Youth is found on their FB page.