Watsonville event brings mental health resources to young people

On August 12, the United Way of Santa Cruz County Youth Action Network and Jóvenes SANOS will host a pop-up event in Watsonville to connect young people to mental health resources in their community.

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

“We have held many events in Santa Cruz County this year,” says Amanda Gamban, coordinator of the 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 local youth with opportunities for community research, civic engagement and leadership development. Jóvenes SANOS focuses on increasing healthy eating and active living and recently the group has shifted its focus to mental health.

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

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

Hosting the event in Watsonville is particularly important, she said.

“Growing up here in Watsonville, I didn’t have those kinds of resources,” she says. “We didn’t talk about it, at school or with my family. We don’t really talk about mental health in Hispanic culture. But I think it’s important to teach people that to be healthy, you have to have good mental health. I want the younger generations to have that support.

Community Impact Coordinator Pamela Velazquez said the organization has benefited from its partnerships with the Youth Center, where they have held events on several occasions. She also highlighted the work of Jóvenes SANOS in organizing the next 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 the community still needs.”

Several local organizations will be present during the August 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, community mural, 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 come out and connect. It will simply be a safe space where students can come to find support and connect with each other.

The Watsonville pop-up event takes place on Friday, August 12, from 4-7 p.m. 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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