For more than 25 years, an important nonprofit has been quietly working in our community to support our schools, students and their parents — Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance (PVPSA).

PVPSA is a unique organization — it was created with the sole purpose of supporting the students of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) by providing comprehensive health education, tobacco use prevention, and intervention services to the largest school district in Santa Cruz County (which also encompasses North Monterey County).

In addition to the longstanding involvement with the school district, PVPSA has cultivated partnerships with other city, county and state organizations, both private and public, to collaborate on community issues such as alcohol and drug use, gang prevention, physical and mental health, education and safety. From its inception, PVPSA has maintained a leadership role in prevention and intervention in our local community.

PVPSA is literally changing lives. They are helping young people thrive, and by doing so, are allowing their families to see them grow into the best possible version of themselves.

With close to 7,000 youth serviced annually, and more than 500 of their parents and caregivers also receiving parental education and support, it is no surprise that 92 percent of youth completing their school dropout and gang prevention program avoided expulsion, and 88 percent of youth referred to PVPSA as a result of committing their first nonviolent misdemeanor, successfully completed the Caminos Program or the Pathways to Success Program and did not reoffend six months post completion.

These numbers are impressive and this work, that is quietly occurring in our community, deserves our recognition. But PVPSA wants to do even more. And one way to do that is with a new centralized location for its growing and thriving programs and counseling.

To that end, PVPSA recently signed the paperwork to build a new prevention center on the corner of East Lake and Brewington. This new building will house all of PVPSA’s youth prevention programs, parent education and training programs, school-based programs and restorative justice programs, giving them the space to continue to grow and affect the lives of youth and families in the Pajaro Valley, Aptos and North Monterey County.

Currently, PVPSA has raised 74 percent of its overall goals for this project, which includes the entire construction of the new facility and will be looking to our community to help raise the final amount. In the coming weeks PVPSA will be holding a Key Ceremony in coordination with the Central California Alliance for Health. We encourage you to get involved in any way you can. Take a look at what PVPSA is quietly doing for our community and partner with PVPSA as we work to protect not just the health of our community, but the heart of it as well.


Zach Friend is Santa Cruz County Supervisor for the Second District, and Erica Padilla-Chavez is the CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance. Their opinions are their own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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