It’s our mental health How three young people keep their minds healthy

Story and photos by Carlos René Castro

The Young Voices Media Project joined efforts with the California Youth Media Network to produce a series of stories on youth mental health. Young reporters Estrella Pacheco, Nyelli Ceja, Ariana Calderon, Angela Rodriguez and Carlos Castro contributed to You’re Not Alone.
You’re Not Alone is a collaboration between Boyle Heights Beat, Coachella Unincorporated, Richmond Pulse, The kNOw, We’Ced, Voices of Monterey Bay and YR Media from the California Youth Media Network. The work was produced by a team of young journalists from Coachella, Fresno, Los Angeles, Merced, Oakland, Richmond and Salinas.

Blake Wolf, 22, Avid Rock Climber 

Blake Wolf is a communication major at Fresno State and a multimedia reporter at The Collegian, his school’s student-run newspaper. Away from the desk, Wolf is an avid rock climber who uses the sport to exercise and tests his mental endurance. 

“Rock climbing is just like any other form of working out,” Wolf said. “It’s good for your mind, body, and soul.” 

His interest in rock climbing peaked while randomly stumbling upon documentaries about the sport. Since then, he was hooked and quickly searched for a local rock climbing gym to test his curiosity.

The Central Valley native climbs rocks at Metal Mark Climbing, a premier indoor climbing and fitness gym in Central Fresno. The gym features challenging bouldering terrains for climbers of all levels and 80 different routes. In addition, Metal Mark Climbing offers fitness classes to members.

Aside from challenges that arise during rock climbing, Wolf appreciates the tight knight community he has built while being a member of his gym for a short time. Wolf and his buddies hang out rock climbing and chat about life while supporting each other during challenging routes.

During rock climbing, Wolf focuses on the challenges each route has in store for him. He mentions that there is no room for mistakes in the sport and that each step matters to make it past the finish line. With so much on the line to lose, Wolf is locked in to prove himself that nothing in life is impossible.

“When I climb, I am completely in the moment,” Wolf said. “My mind is 100% focused on all of the elements that must come together for me to complete the route.”

His favorite rock climbers are Shawn Raboutou and the late Marc-André Leclerc for their unique movements in projecting some of the hardest boulders in the world and for their commitment to the sport to attract people to rock climbing.


Valeria Terriquez, 14, Baile Folklórico Dancer

Valeria Terriquez is an 8th grader at Kings Canyon Middle School in Fresno. The 14-year-old has been dancing for half of her life and is a baile folklórico dancer at Grupo Folklórico Tangu Yuu, a local all-ages baile folklórico group based in Fresno.  

The ambitious dancer is familiar with the importance of mental health due to her school’s administration providing her classmates with information about the importance of taking care of one’s well-being during school rallies.

“It’s a big topic that we talk about,” Terriquez said. “Counselors come and talk to us to check in on our grades and how we are doing.”

According to D. Haltigan, an assistant professor of child and youth mental health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, social media apps like TikTok have increased depression and anxiety more generally during puberty in females.

But for Terriquez, traditional Mexican folklórico dancing is a way for her to focus on her personal development while also cracking jokes with her friends in the group. 

Under the direction of Dance Director and Instructor Hugo Martinez, Terriquez attends practice at a dance studio inside of a sports training & conditioning facility in north Fresno. The studio is filled with high energy as the dancers practice fast-past moves and routines for upcoming performances.

As a Grupo Folklórico Tangu Yuu dancer, Terriquez learns dance routines from Mexican states such as Jalisco and Veracruz. Recently, she performed at the High School Mariachi Festival at Fresno City College. She credits dancing with taking her focus away from stressful class projects.

“I find dancing enjoyable because it destresses me out,” Terriquez said. 

Aside from finding joy in performing on stage in front of a crowd around the Central Valley, Terriquez is proud to honor her Mexican roots and make her parents proud. 

“I love representing my parents’ culture,” Terriquez said. “I love that I am making them proud and I love that I am dancing for myself. 

Abraham Montaño, 22, Fresno State Kicker

The final score was 35-32.

On September 10, 2022, the Fresno State football team fell short in the final regulation play against Oregon State. During the game, Salinas native and kicker Abraham Montaño missed three kicks that would have advanced the Bulldogs over the Beavers. 

Montaño was trending on Fresno State’s Twitter during the game for not the best reasons.

He faced backlash and death threats from the Fresno State football fans, known as the Red Wave. The criticism continued to pop up on Montaño’s feed on Twitter until their next game against the University of Southern California. 

As a D1 kicker and student-athlete at a top football program, high expectations are placed on Montaño by family members and coaches. To ease the stress from his responsibilities on the field, Montaño finds sanctuary in his room at Topanga Ridge, Fresno State’s off-campus student housing. With headphones on and an Xbox controller in his hand, Montaño submerges in the world of FIFA with his friends.

“Video games have been around since I was a little kid,” Montaño said.

The game was introduced to him by his older brother Enrique Montaño, a former professional soccer player. Aside from the influence of his brother, his love of the games roots in his passion for sports.  

In high school, Montaño was a soccer star for the Alisal Trojans, but he made the difficult transition to quit playing soccer to find a new venture in football.  His gamble to kick for the Trojans was a success.

Even though he chose to continue his football career, Montaño’s roots in soccer still provide a sense of recharge. His goals for the future are to continue playing for the Bulldogs and obtain a master’s degree in Sports Administration and become a sports broadcaster like his idol, Enrique “El Perro” Bermúdez.

Carlos Rene Castro

About Carlos Rene Castro

Carlos Rene Castro was born in Honduras and has lived in Salinas since he was five. A graduate of Alisal High, his photography has been featured in solo exhibits in Salinas and Los Angeles. He's also a graduate of the youth summer journalism program that's been held in Salinas since 2017.