.Watsonville Event Brings Mental Health Resources to Youth

South County gathering is Youth Action Network’s final event of countywide pop-up series

On Aug. 12, United Way of Santa Cruz County’s Youth Action Network and Jóvenes SANOS will host a pop-up event in Watsonville to connect youth with mental health resources in their community.

The event is part of Youth Action Network’s ongoing pop-up series, which has had the group working with local partners to hold events across the county throughout the Spring and Summer. The organization has so far held events in Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Live Oak and Watsonville.

“We’ve been hosting lots of events across Santa Cruz County this year,” says Amanda Gamban, a coordinator for Youth Action Network. “This last one in Watsonville is important … it will focus on mental health.”

Youth Action Network is a local initiative aimed at providing opportunities for local youth in community-based research, civic engagement, and leadership development. Jóvenes SANOS focuses on increasing healthy eating and active living—and, recently, the group has been shifting its focus to address mental health.

Lizabeth Garcia Lopez, a junior at Watsonville High School and member of Jóvenes SANOS, said that mental health support is vital to her and her peers’ well-being. 

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“A lot of high schools don’t teach about mental health,” Lopez says. “It’s hard for people to talk about. But they have to learn about it sooner or later, and it’s better to know at an early age. This will be a fun activity to engage students, teach them more about mental health, like ways to cope with stress at school.”

Hosting the event in Watsonville is especially important, she says. 

“Being raised here in Watsonville, I didn’t have these types of resources,” she says. “They were not spoken about, in school or with my family. Mental health is not really spoken about in Hispanic culture. But I think it’s important to teach people that to be healthy, you must have good mental health. I want younger generations to have that support.”

Community impact coordinator Pamela Velazquez said that the organization has benefited from its partnerships with the Youth Center, where they have held events many times. She also highlighted Jóvenes SANOS’ work in organizing the upcoming pop-up.

“Throughout the summer, we held planning meetings with local youth to decide what this event was going to be,” she said. “We asked our partners to identify what their programming offers and what is still needed in the community.”

Several local organizations will be on hand at the Aug. 12 pop-up, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Community Action Board’s Luna y Sol Family Center, County Park Friends, Digital NEST, Envision Fitness, Friday Night Live, Food What?!, Monarch Services, Youth Center Yoga for All Movement and many more.

The event will include a raffle, games and activities, a community mural painting, food and live music.

“With Covid, we’ve been stuck at home for so long,” Gamban says. “We hope this will be a good reason for them to get out and connect. It’s just going to be a safe space for students to come and find help and get connected with each other.”

The Watsonville pop-up event happens Friday, Aug. 12, 4-7pm. Gene Hoularis and Waldo Rodriguez Youth Center, 30 Maple Ave., Watsonville. sccyan.org. Learn more about Jóvenes SANOS at unitedwaysc.org/jovenes-sanos.

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