An grand opening ceremony gets under way Thursday for true new Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance headquarters at the corner of East Lake and Brewington avenues. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Volumes of praise and thanks, mixed with a handful of official proclamations, filled the sunny afternoon air at a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance headquarters at the corner of East Lake and Brewington avenues Thursday.

“So many of us here are to blame for this wonderful outcome,” said Erica Padilla Chavez, CEO of PVPSA. “There are so many to thank. This is a true community affair.”

Serving as emcee, Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, superintendent of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, described the opening as a “bold move” for the health of young people in the Pajaro Valley.

PVPSA is a local nonprofit that aims to improve the quality of life of the students and families in the Pajaro Valley by providing health education, counseling and prevention services, and advocating for public policies that protect their health. 

It broke ground on the $3.1 million project in September 2018. The new facility, named the Mayou Family Center, after Leon and Janet Mayou, is an expansion of the existing PVPSA a block away on East Lake Avenue. The Mayou family has been a major donor to numerous programs throughout the Pajaro Valley, with Janet being a founding board member of PVPSA. 

It will serve as a central location for staff and a space for integrated behavioral health services. It will also feature a large conference room that can function as a community room.

As Mayor Rebecca Garcia presented a framed proclamation, she told the crowd, “I remember when this was just an idea way back.” Noting the program board of director’s steadfastness and determination, Garcia echoed their motto: “Together we can change life.”

In addition to a chain of dignitaries, Padilla Chavez took the time to present students who have prospered from the program: Watsonville High sophomores Miguel Yerena and Celestte Flores.

“Due to this program I have seen myself improve dramatically,” Flores said. “My overall experience with this program has been amazing.” 

She told the gathering of more than 100 that she has been enrolled in the program’s conflict resolution class at WHS and that the mentors and advisors there have been of tremendous help.

“I could have never spoken to a crowd this big before,” she said.

A former Watsonville Mayor and principal of WHS, Dr. Nancy Bilicich said she made a donation to the new facility in the name of her mother and father, Louise and Louis. Bilicich is also on the 11-member PVPSA board.

“They would have been proud to support this new project,” she said. “They were all about supporting our youth.”

Padilla Chavez highlighted the fact that the project largely relied on keeping money local. WHS graduate Alex Reynoso of In Studio Architecture in Salinas was the lead architect and Selden & Son General Building Contractor of Watsonville headed up the construction.

While the ribbon-cutting, spearheaded by Shaz Roth and the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, was held Thursday, the doors actually opened a few weeks ago. 

Padilla Chavez said she was delighted to notice recently a 6-year-old boy, the first young person to enter the new place, and see him wander the halls, find one of the colorfully outfitted rooms, walk in and make himself comfortable.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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