Danny Contreras (on stage) speaks to the crowd at Empower Watsonville's annual conference on Dec. 2. —Empower Watsonville/PVPSA

WATSONVILLE—Empower Watsonville, a youth leadership group that aims to amplify young voices in local government, hosted its annual conference at the Gene Hoularis and Waldo Rodriguez Youth Center on Dec. 2.

Empower Watsonville is a health policy program of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance (PVPSA) for students grade 8-12. It focuses on advocacy and leadership, aiming to reduce youth substance use in the region.

This year’s conference highlighted the importance of mental health, especially within the Latinx community. About 300 people attended, including youth and community members. Local organizations were on hand to offer resources and leadership activities, including the Community Action Board (CAB) and Second Harvest Food Bank. The event also featured a keynote speech by local advocate Danny Contreras, who spoke about his own challenges and achievements. He urged the community to “create progress for themselves and their communities.”

“The Empower Watsonville youth group desires that the conference spark new interests within youth in the importance of mental health,” said Sofia Cuentas, community health policy coordinator with PVPSA. “We aspire that our community sees the effort youth have shown to limit youth social and retail access to substances through public policy.”

Mia Rebolledo, a new Empower Watsonville member, said the event was a very good experience. 

“It was nice seeing people that I knew and that I didn’t know,” Rebolledo said. “I liked the speech, it felt relatable because I know some people who are headed that path. I liked the stations and especially the Watsonville Wetlands because they brought a snake, and I thought it was cool.”

President of Empower Watsonville, Brooklyn Llamas, called this year’s conference “a night to remember.”

“It was an amazing community event with lots of fun and engaging activities for the whole family to enjoy,” Llamas said. “Danny was a great guest speaker. His story was inspirational, leaving me motivated more than ever. The youth led a beautiful event, and I couldn’t be any prouder of them. A special thank you to all the families who joined us that evening.”

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


  1. Leave it to the white woman to call us Latinx community. Please Johanna we are Latinos! Don’t try to push your woke/white guilt crap on us.

    • Leave it to an under educated Latina to slander the speaker with hateful rhetoric. Well done. Thought you were moving out of SC County. Go for it.

      Latinx definition: relating to people of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina).

      • Regardless of where I live I’ll always be interested in SC county. I have people I love here still and wish nothing but the best to happen here.

        Please go to Mexico with your Latinx crap and see how many Mexicans make fun of you for it. I’ll wait…..

        Leave it to an “educated” person to feel superior than us plebs lol. What is an education these days because mostly people who have a degree just spews dumb s*** time and time again. For example your comment…

    • Please Johanna, ignore Monique. Many of us enjoy your articles in the Pajaronian. Use Latinx whenever you feel it is appropriate.

  2. Latinx is a word that celebrates the Latin community, no matter where they were born, their use of Spanish ( or not), whether they are one gender or another, whatever their sexual orientation , and wherever they live. Johanna Miller was right to use the term.
    But then we have those who persist in ignorance, like Monique. Shs just cannot accept that people can have similar racial backgrounds , but also have differences. everything must be binary to her. this is the product of the right wing little minds who insist on neat, strict categories for people. This is what the right wing promotes, and why they hate CA.
    God bless CA. God have pity on those like Monique.


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