YOUTH BEAT |
By Estrella Zarate-Pacheco
There were a lot of interesting things Angela Rodriguez learned as a commissioner of the Gonzales Youth Council, such as how to negotiate with people in power, and how the city council works. But perhaps one of the most impactful things she learned was to conduct research in her community.
Rodriguez, 19, knew the mental health project she helped research during high school had results when she saw students take advantage of the resources it made available.
The project benefited not just her peers, but Rodriguez as well.
While working on the project I was able to receive help for my own mental health, she said. “We tried implementing more mental health resources within Gonzalez.”
Rodriguez was a member of the Gonzalez Youth Council during high school starting in the Fall of 2018. She is currently a student at UC Berkeley planning on majoring in Liberal Studies and rhetoric and hopes to minor in Creative Writing.
Although she had a lot of activities, Rodriguez said she was able to manage her academic and outside commitments well, something that has paid off for her now as a college student.
The mental health project “brought in social workers to the schools. Seeing that (in) my final year of high school, I was happy … to see positive change going on,” she said.
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The Mental Health Project began during the pandemic when the Gonzalez Youth Council began to see mental health as an issue they were all facing.
It made her glad to see how the resources they were being provided were helpful to students. Before, people didn’t believe mental health was important. She experienced some students making fun of mental health before the pandemic arose. It wasn’t taken much seriously.
Angela said the reason that drove her to make a change in her community was based on personal experience. “Seeing members of my family struggle with mental health, and especially because in the Salinas Valley, and … in Gonzales I … I feel like in Mexican culture it’s not very easy to talk about mental health.”
Angela is proud of being from Gonzales, even though she has encountered individuals who feel ashamed of being from her hometown.
“I love doing work for my community. I want to be part of the community. I want people to acknowledge that I was a Gonzalez citizen, a native. I love Gonzalez, ” she said.