RIO COMMUNITIES—A Rio Communities youth has been named a “health hero” by a Santa Fe nonprofit, which will donate $1,000 in her name to a local community garden program. 

Rayven Ward
Con Alma Foundation Youth Hero

Rayven Ward, 13, is one of two New Mexicans named as this year’s Con Alma Health Foundation health heroes. Ward, along with Lisa Patch, a director of health services for Alamogordo Public Schools, are being recognized “for their actionable efforts to bring transformational change to their communities,” according to a recent press release. 

This is the second year the foundation has honored a youth hero, with Denise Herrera, PhD, Con Alma’s executive director, saying the review committee was “inspired by Rayven Ward’s passion, advocacy and fundraising efforts to provide outdoor education and bring about community change.” 

Rayven attributed her advocacy to a mentor who taught her the value of the environment at Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. After a fire burned the area, Rayven and her sister sold handmade art and donations to support Whitfield, and later did the same for the local animal shelter.  

Now her advocacy has broadened — she’s currently developing a proposal to help educate middle-school students about the dangers of fentanyl. 

“I like to inspire people that if they have excess money to give it to someone in need or buy a plant or something that can help the community,” Rayven said. 

Holly Noelle Chavez nominated Rayven, the oldest of her four children, due to her dedication to helping animals and people in need, protecting the environment and supporting outdoor education.  

Rayven is a Teen Court attorney, a member of the Valencia County Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and Youth Move, an advocacy group, and she co-teaches two religious education classes as well as helps tutor students involved with her mother and grandmother’s business, H2 Academic Solutions in Belen. 

“I think she’s amazing,” Chavez said. “For being only 13 and the things she’s doing, it’s exciting to see what she’ll do next.” 

Con Alma will donate $1,000 to the Valencia County Soil and Water Conservation District’s community garden’s Outdoor Equity Project on behalf of Rayven. 

The foundation will donate the same amount to 100% Otero, a community partner focused on ensuring access to vital services on behalf of Patch, who was recognized for her leadership in bringing telehealth, grief and healing, employee wellness and laundry services to Alamogordo Public Schools and surrounding areas, according to the press release. 

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.