Teenagers perused the stands of local health and wellness agencies at a celebration of youth involvement and avoiding teen pregnancy at the on Wednesday.
High school-age volunteers helped throw the event along with local community organizers. The teen volunteers set up tables and chairs, manned booths and participated in games, all with a theme of youth health.
“It starts out with education,” said volunteer Karen Serrano. “You have to be educated to avoid getting pregnant or for how to eat healthy. You need to be educated to make good decisions.”
Serrano, a poised, well-spoken high school senior, has three years of experience with Jovenes Sanos, an organization that focuses on healthy eating. Her involvement includes going to neighborhood markets and making sure they have healthy food, asking market owners to put up educational posters and teaching about healthy eating habits in school classrooms. Serrano is headed to California State University, East Bay, next year.
“Youth who are involved are less likely to get pregnant,” said event organizer Amber Faria.
That’s why organizations from different types of groups were brought in to participate in the event, which was open to ages 12-18. The musical entertainers were almost all teens, to inspire young people who are interested in the arts, and Faria also invited Real Atletico, a local soccer club, and the Police Activities League.
"Sports were it for me,” said Faria, who played volleyball for Watsonville High and then went back to coach volleyball.
“I’m a living testimony,” agreed Joey Barrera, aquatics coordinator for the . “Unfortunately, Pops left, and my mom died, when I was 10. Any time I had $1 at the YMCA, they’d let me in, and I’d stay all day, swimming and playing sports.”
Now he’s working, mentoring youth, and is the first person in his family to go to college.
“I just try to lead by example,” he said.
Another young person beginning to lead by example is high school student Jose Vasquez, who started volunteering at Jovenes Sanos just a few weeks ago.
“I never thought I’d be doing this,” Sanos said. “I work at McDonald’s, and I’d rather be working here, because here we’re raising awareness. In our community there’s a lot of obesity, and we’re trying to lower it and show we can be a healthy community.”
Twelve local organizations had booths at the event, and about 65 students went around from booth to booth, participating in activities. YWCA had a game-show-style spinning arrow to decide which topics participants would be quizzed on, like “Birth Control” or “STI’s.” displayed examples of birth control at its booth, with prizes like water bottles, jump ropes and Frisbees. Jovenes Sanos offered strawberries and oranges to kids who answered health questions correctly.