On March 23, 2013, over 180 representatives from Episcopal and Roman Catholic congregations, community groups, schools, and local governments gathered at All Saints’ Episcopal Church/Iglesia Episcopal Cristo Rey in Watsonville for a community conversation on Peace, Power, and Youth.
The event opened with the personal stories of three youth who described firsthand the pressures and dangers facing Monterey Bay area youth. Then, a panel organized by members of COPA (Communities Organized for relational Power and Action), brought leaders of faith, education, and law enforcement together with youth, parents, non-profits and community members to respond to the needs of area youth. The panel included the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray Reeves, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, the Most Rev. Richard Garcia, D.D., Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey, Maria Orozco, Trustee of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Jenny Sarmiento, CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, Nahara Villalobos, Watsonville Youth City Council, Dulce Sixtos, Watsonville Youth City Council, Daniel Dodge, Watsonville City Council member, Gina Castañeda, Aztecas Soccer Program and Deputy Probation Officer, and Manny Solano, Chief of Police, Watsonville Police Department.
Following the panel presentation, all of the attendees were invited to break out into small groups to tell stories about when they felt valued by their families and communities, and to brainstorm ideas to create more positive experiences for youth. Some of the ideas suggested included providing hope through mentorship, demonstrating love through commitment of emotional time, providing safe spaces for youth, and purposeful gatherings which emphasize youth leadership.
Overall, the event was a great success mainly due to the participation and energy of the area youth who shared their stories and offered their ideas on enhancing local programs that work with youth. The event provided an opportunity to build relationships of trust across the participating institutions and laid the groundwork for building strategy for action. For more information on how you can get involved, please contact Deacon Rob Sommer at (831) 917-9178.
The event concluded with homemade Mexican food and time for participants to hang out with youth. Youth group soccer teams from Cristo Rey. Watsonville, and San Pablo, Seaside, entertained the spectators with a spirited soccer match on the lawn in front of the church.