WATSONVILLE—A new program has launched at Envision Fitness & Nutrition in downtown Watsonville, aiming to support youth by teaching them about health, wellness, stress management and more.
Envision opened in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. They began with virtual health and fitness classes, gradually opening for in-person classes and personal training, as well as hosting community events.
And three weeks ago, they launched a new program with youth from the United Way of Santa Cruz County’s Jóvenes Sanos program.
Envision member Pamela Velazquez, who is also a community impact coordinator for the United Way, said she had worked closely with owners Christian Diaz and Andrea Rosas, and saw an opportunity to team up.
“I had an idea of their vision for Envision Fitness and what they cared about in creating a safer and healthier community,” Velazquez said. “And we want to do the same at Jóvenes Sanos. So we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to work together to build a curriculum.”
Velazquez approached Diaz and Rosas to build a curriculum around the Stress-Busting Playbook, created by California’s surgeon general Dr. Nadine Burke at the start of the pandemic. They also implemented aspects of the Adverse Childhood Experiences, or “ACEs” quiz developed by the CDC, and the Developmental Assets Framework created by the Search Institute.
“What we created here is a focus on education and social skills in a fun environment, where they can learn skills, then put them into practice in school or any environment,” Rosas said. “We want them to be able to feel confident, learn how to live healthier and cope with stress.”
Jóvenes in Action is a 12-week program with participants ages 14-18 attending once a week for an hour. They work in groups, learning everything from how to make a well-balanced meal to staying active throughout the week.
They also participate in challenges at home, such as creating healthy meals and posting photos to a group chat to earn points. And one participant who complete the full program have the chance to receive a scholarship to fund school-related needs.
“Something I like is how motivated the coaches are to teach us about healthy living while also working out,” said participant Emily Abundis. “I’ve learned more about what a balanced meal looks like. Overall my experience so far has been very enjoyable.”
Another major focus of the program is helping with stress management and social skills, which is very important for youth today, said Rosas.
“Covid affected all of us, but it really affected our middle and high school students the most,” she said. “It really took away their whole social life. And now, going back to school, they’re struggling in that social setting.”
Rosas said that the program filled up in just two days of being launched.
“We already have a waiting list for the next one,” she said. “We hope to expand and bring this program more into our community.”
Added Velazquez: “We hope that this program will become more youth-led in the future. For future cohorts, we want the youth who are learning now to take the lead.”
Participant Elizabeth Garcia said that Envision has been a welcoming place for her.
“Our program is full of darling people who receive you with a smile and are ready to help you get your muscles working,” she said. “It’s a space to challenge yourself.”
Added fellow participant Lizbeth Garcia Lopez: “I like that our program teaches us the importance of physical and mental health. I also enjoy learning about the food we consume day-to-day and what healthier food options could be. It is an excellent program for youth who want to live healthier lives.”
For information, visit unitedwaysc.org/jovenes-sanos and envisionfitness.com. Follow on Instagram @envision_fitness_nutrition and @jovenes.sanos for updates about Jóvenes in Action.