WATSONVILLE — The annual Community Assessment Project (CAP) Report was released for 2018, and the findings were discussed at an event at the Watsonville Civic Plaza Community Room Monday morning.

This year, the event, put on by the United Way of Santa Cruz County and Applied Survey Research (ASR), focused on health and well-being for children and youth ages 1 to 24. Dubbed the “Children & Youth Well-Being Spotlight,” the new approach was an effort by organizers to inspire the community to find solutions to issues affecting young people’s lives.

United Way of Santa Cruz County CEO Keisha Frost welcomed guests and introduced co-emcees Matt Huffaker, Watsonville’s city manager, and Santa Cruz Mayor-Elect Martine Watkins. ASR’s Susan Brutschy then explained the importance of equity in research, and why CAP Report organizers were taking a different approach this year.

“We stand united in our community to support our most valuable — our children,” Brutschy said.

The majority of Monday’s event alternated between findings reports and “Bright Spots,” which highlighted individuals and groups that have made strides in supporting community youth.

“We should remember that all these facts and figures are just a starting point,” said Maria Cadenas of Santa Cruz Community Ventures. “The data is only valuable when we take it to the next level.”

Cadenas, who reported on economic findings, emphasized Santa Cruz County’s housing issues and how it pertains to homeless youth. ASR found that 588 unaccompanied homeless children and transition-age youth were counted in the county in 2017.

“This isn’t about percentages and dollar signs,” she said. “It’s about love and community, and how we can achieve well-being for all.”

Speakers covered every aspect of the Community Assessment Project Report’s findings, from education and health to family and community. Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, Dori Rose Inda from Salud Para La Gente and Kristal Caballero of the United Way of Santa Cruz County presented the findings. Groups such as Live Oak Cradle to Career and Joveños SANOS were spotlighted.

“The challenges we face aren’t unique to Watsonville,” said Digital NEST founder Jacob Martinez, who spoke about the organization’s success as well as its future. “We need to do all we can to ensure the success of our youth.”

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