Gonzales Mental Health and Wellness Fair Youth Council
Gonzales Youth Council members (from left) Maya Flores, Aliyah Castillo and Alejandra Pinon give a presentation on their Mental Health Research Project at the beginning of the Mental Health and Wellness Fair at Gonzales High School on Saturday. (Michael Ramirez)

GONZALES — Gonzales Unified School District (GUSD) hosted a Mental Health and Wellness Fair on Saturday at Gonzales High to promote mental health awareness and well-being in the community.

The Fair featured exhibits, informative workshops and activities designed to educate and empower attendees on various aspects of mental health.

“The Mental Health and Wellness Fair was a wonderful showcase of the resources offered by our community partners, staff expertise and student leadership,” said GUSD Assistant Superintendent Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez. “The opening and closing of the event were led by Gonzales High School students who were part of the Gonzales Youth Council. The students’ leadership and presentation skills demonstrate the impact of the community’s investment in our students.”

The March 23 event began at 10 a.m. in the Roger Fernando Gym as Gonzales Youth Council (GYC) Members Aliyah Castillo, Maya Flores and Alejandra Pinon gave a presentation regarding the Mental Health Research Project they have been involved with, which included students in the Gonzales school district.

Castillo has been a GYC member for four years, while Pinon is in her third year and Flores is in her first year.

Gonzales Youth Council decided in 2019 that mental health was a key focus, but when Covid-19 struck in March 2020 the project consisted of Zoom meetings. In April 2020, the group created a survey and gained feedback from adult allies and a partnership with California State University at Monterey Bay was formed. The final survey was distributed to Fairview Middle School and Gonzales High School students.

The survey closed in May 2022, and the data analysis began. Castillo, Flores and Pinon provided results of the Mental Health Survey on Saturday.

The work of the GYC helped bring a mental health counselor to the high school, and they also traveled to a conference to not only discuss mental health, but also their work in the community of Gonzales with the pedestrian safety project and many other projects to improve the community.

After the presentation by the GYC, students and parents attended two sessions of presentations, which took place throughout Gonzales High classrooms, the school library and the science lecture room.

Featured panelists and speakers included representatives from the Epicenter, Silver Star Resource Center, Brightlife Kids, Ohana Behavioral Health, Sun Street Centers and Montage Health Prescribe Safe. Topics included “Coping with Stress,” “The Effects of Trauma,” “Success Over Stigma,” “Understanding our Children’s Mental Health” and “Family Education.”

In addition, Martha Grimes provided two Zumba sessions and Vivian Leyva conducted yoga sessions. The event concluded with lunch and a Self Care Workshop by the Gonzales Youth Council.

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