Ride to raise funds for new mental-health focused student group

Rotary RideRiders in the Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary Bike Ride will be pedaling with purpose later this month as they raise funds to support a new, mental-health focused student leadership program aiming to empower local youth with the tools to advocate and act in support of their classmates.

Called the Youth Mental Health Leadership Council, the group will be supported by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (Santa Cruz COE) in partnership with Monarch Services, Rising Worldwide, DigitalNEST and Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary. 

As members of the Youth Mental Health Leadership Council, students will learn intervention and prevention strategies, gain leadership skills including peer advocacy, contribute to the design of youth wellness centers in schools, and be the spokespeople for issues youth are facing within school communities and in the larger Santa Cruz County community.

“The Youth Mental Health Leadership Council will enable us to center the voices of students in the community dialogue about the wellness of themselves and their peers,” said Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Faris Sabbah. “We are grateful for the support of our partner organizations who share our commitment to uplifting and empowering students.”

Now in its 25th year, the Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary Ride consists of a 3-day, fully-supported 200 mile ride, scheduled to run September 29 through October 1. The ride will begin in Healdsburg and travel through the Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Bodega Bay and San Francisco where riders will travel over the Golden Gate Bridge and down the coast to Santa Cruz. The ride will culminate in a festive finish line party to celebrate the more than 90 riders and crew committed to supporting youth with 100% of the proceeds to go to local charities.

“Covid hit us all really hard, but our youth have and continue to suffer extraordinary social and mental challenges,” said Jerry Souza, President of Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary. “The new mental health and wellness services we are supporting at the County Office of Education will provide vital resources to help ensure an inclusive recovery for the youth in our community.”

The Youth Mental Health Leadership Council is among six youth-led leadership groups supported by the Santa Cruz COE as part of its Santa Cruz County Student Leadership and Engagement Programs. The only requirement to join is to be a high school student at a Santa Cruz County school, and interested students are encouraged to apply at sccoe.link/YMHLC.