Watsonville—A new program has launched at Envision Fitness & Nutrition in downtown Watsonville, with the goal of supporting young people by teaching them about health, wellness, stress management, and more.
The visualization opened in 2020, at the height of the epidemic. They started with virtual health and fitness classes, and gradually opened up to in-person classes and personal training, as well as hosting community events.
And three weeks ago, they launched a new program with young people from the Jóvenes Sanos Program of the United Way of Santa Cruz County.
Envision member Pamela Velasquez, who is also the community impact coordinator at United Way, said she worked closely with owners Christian Diaz and Andrea Rosas, and saw an opportunity to collaborate.
“I had an idea of their vision for Envision Fitness and what they are interested in in creating a safer and healthier community,” said Velasquez. “And we want to do the same at Jóvenes Sanos. So we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to work together to build a curriculum.”
Velasquez approached Diaz and Rosas to build a curriculum around the Stress-Busting Playbook, which California General Surgeon Dr. Nadine Burke created at the start of the pandemic. They also implemented aspects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or “ACEs” testing developed by the CDC, and the Developmental Origins Framework established by the research institute.
“What we created here is to focus on education and social skills in a fun environment, where they can learn the skills, and then put them into practice in school or in any environment,” Rosas said. “We want them to be able to feel confident, learn how to live healthier and deal with stress.”
Jóvenes in Action is a 12-week program where participants aged 14-18 attend once a week for an hour. They work in groups, learning everything from how to prepare a balanced meal to staying active all week long.
They also participate in challenges at home, such as preparing healthy meals and posting photos in a group chat to earn points. Each participant who completes the full program will also receive a scholarship to fund school-related needs.
“Something I love is how motivating the coaches are to teach us healthy living while also exercising,” said participant Emily Abbondis. “I learned more about what a balanced meal looks like. Overall, my experience has been very enjoyable so far.”
Another major focus of the program is helping with stress management and social skills, which is very important for young people today, Rosas said.
“Covid affected all of us, but it really affected middle and high school students the most,” she said. “It really wiped out their entire social life. Now, back in school, they struggle in that social environment.”
Rosas said the program ended within just two days of its launch.
“We already have a waiting list for the next stage,” she said. “We hope to expand and introduce this program further into our community.”
Velasquez added: “We hope this program will become youth-led in the future. For future cohorts, we want young people who are learning now to take the lead.”
Entrant Elizabeth Garcia said Envision was a welcoming place for her.
“Our program is full of lovable people who greet you with a smile and are ready to help you work your muscles,” she said. “It’s a space to challenge yourself.”
Fellow co-author Lisbeth Garcia Lopez added: “I love that our program teaches us the importance of physical and mental health. I also enjoy learning about what food we consume daily and what healthy food choices can be. It is an excellent program for young people who want to live a healthier life.”
For information, visit unitedwaysc.org/jovenes-sanos and envisionfitness.com. Follow on Instagram @envision_fitness_nutrition and @jovenes.sanos for updates on Jóvenes in action.
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