The volunteers that make this possible are Melody Hannani, Juana Del Villar, Tyndall Bounous, Marissa Miller and Liz Locatelli—and most of them are also balancing this with their busy lives as undergraduate students at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Just a couple of the schools where these volunteers work on a weekly basis are Watsonville Community School and STAR Community High School. At Watsonville Community School, Melody and Juana work with a group of teen girls in grades 9-12. Uniquely, at Watsonville Community School, the weekly girls group is offered as an elective so the high school students can get school credit for each quarter they attend Healthy Girls Santa Cruz groups.
Some of the students participating in Healthy Girls Santa Cruz at Watsonville Community School are mothers, adding another dimension to the weekly meetings: “If we consider the challenges that urban low income Latina youth face, one could understand why programs like Healthy Girls Santa Cruz can be beneficial to learning environments like Watsonville Community School,” says Juana on the heavily Latina/Hispanic ethnic makeup of the girls group at Watsonville Community School.
During this year’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 22-28), Healthy Girls Santa Cruz celebrated at STAR Community High School by having an open discussion about eating disorders in a girls group facilitated by Tyndall. Students in the group were encouraged to write body-positive messages to display in the classroom to promote self-love and acceptance. The guidance and advice provided to young girls by these volunteers is greatly appreciated and does not go unrecognized. Thank you, Healthy Girls Santa Cruz!