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March 20, 2023

Guest View: Towards shared prosperity

When everyone has what they need to thrive, we all benefit. That core belief is part of what our group, Rise Together, an initiative of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, is all about. Our intercultural, multi-generational Rise Together coalition has built bridges and trust as we work to advance racial equity in Santa Cruz County. We’ve honed goals and expanded our circle to 32 community organizers, social justice and arts leaders, journalists, indigenous cultural practitioners, public servants, storytellers, social workers, healthcare professionals, youth mentors and educators, funders and immigrant advocates. 

Local residents have helped shape recent successes to advance our goals through volunteerism, giving, organizing and sharing of expertise. We are excited to share a few highlights of our first two years and invite you to celebrate with us.

Last year we awarded $423,000 for 14 projects rooted in dignity, well-being, joy and racial equity. A few of the success stories include Watsonville Film Festival’s Cine Se Puede Fellowship which empowered emerging filmmakers to get the resources, connections and support to produce their best work and propel their careers. Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Initiative supported Black mental health through arts, community building, youth development and leadership. Aztecas Youth Soccer’s mentorship program provided engaging activities and a safe space for youth to connect and heal. Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County created a more inclusive, diverse workplace that offers opportunities for career advancement. 

We’re now celebrating an additional $400,000 in awards to both sustain work started last year and launch new projects that leaders had dreamed of but not yet had the funding to make come to life. We’re helping volunteer-led organizations grow by hiring paid staff, helping kids develop video and story telling skills, strengthening families as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic, and celebrating arts and culture in our region. These latest grants, made possible by contributions from people from many walks of life, will help Digital NEST youth build skills, pursue careers in multimedia production, and share positive stories of their community. They will contribute to The Amah Mutsun Land Trust in growing and distributing healthy native foods and plants that feed and educate their tribal community. It will support a community archiving project to capture and celebrate hidden stories of our past and more deeply connect the community with the UCSC archives. Campesina Womb Justice will train farmworkers to provide peer and doula support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Santa Cruz Local will create bilingual news that directly addresses the information needs of Latinos in Santa Cruz County. These are just a few of the many ways Rise Together is spurring progress. 

With joy, we continue building a Santa Cruz County where all people have the opportunities and resources they need to thrive. We will continue to grow the circle and deepen the difference we can make together. We invite the community to join us in taking action to make Santa Cruz County a more just place to call home. Come join our community celebration filled with performances, food, inspiration, ways to get involved, and to meet Rise Together leaders at the Community Foundation on Friday, Oct. 14 from 6-8:30pm. More information at

Rise Together Santa Cruz County members: Angela Chambers; Ashlyn N. Adams; Brenda Griffin; Carmin Powell, MD; Cat Willis; Chairman Valentin Lopez; Consuelo Alba; DeAndre’ James; Elaine Johnson; Erica Padilla-Chavez; Esabella Bonner; Fe Silva-Robles; Gina Castañeda; Helen Aldana; Jacob Martinez; Jaime Molina; Jennifer Herrera; Jenny Kurzweil; Jorge Savala; Justin Cummings, PhD; Kara Meyberg Guzman; Keisha Browder; Kevin Heuer; Maria Ramos Bracamontes; MariaElena De La Garza; Nereida Robles Vasquez, PhD; Rebecca Hernandez, PhD; Ruby Vasquez; Stacey Marie Garcia, Stephanie Barron Lu; Susan True and Thomas Sage Pedersen. Their opinions are their own and not necessarily those of The Pajaronian.


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