A local teen and the San Mateo Police Activities League are partnering to make strides in raising awareness about the importance of student health and mental wellness.
Whether it’s parents looking for tips on how to connect with their children, teens in need of resources to help cope with life stressors, or anyone interested in supporting San Mateo youth, this weekend presents an opportunity with the first 5K Run/Walk for Student Wellness.
PAL and Stride for Awareness teamed up to offer a speaker series Saturday followed by a Sunday run at Seal Point Park. The initiative Stride for Awareness and this weekend’s events were sparked by Olivia Enriquez, a 16-year-old sophomore at Aragon High School.
Student health and mental wellness are important topics for youth who face a variety of challenges. Recognizing how influential education is and hoping to spread awareness about available resources, Enriquez said she hopes the event will engage parents as well as teens.
“We go through the pressures of student life, academic life and family life,” she said. “I saw it in myself and my peers, and I thought it was important for people to know there are resources available to help them. Everyone really has something they’re dealing with, and we have to learn to pay attention and take the time to recognize where people are coming from.”
PAL Executive Director Sgt. Jennifer Maravillas said she was thrilled when Enriquez sought to partner with an organization that focused on youth in the community. PAL works to promote fitness, educate people about mental health issues and teach kids life skills critical to navigating various challenges, Maravillas said.
“We understand that youth at times can become overwhelmed with life stressors; socially, grades, communication problems with adults, sometimes they feel like they’re not heard. And with that often comes bad choices or substance abuse or worse. We’re hoping by spreading awareness about this topic, we’re able to share other types of coping mechanisms,” Maravillas said.
A speaker series will be held Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center where students will share insights with the public at large and race participants can pick up their registration materials. Starting 9 a.m. Sunday, a chip-timed 5K race on a certified USA Track and Field course will be held for runners, walkers or even supportive spectators. The event at Seal Point Park will also include a resource fair with booths from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the One Love Foundation, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, StarVista, the Children’s Health Council and more, according to PAL.
All proceeds from the event go toward PAL’s programs that support at-risk youth and the community at large, Maravillas said.
Saturday’s speaker series includes a mental health advocate, a marriage and family therapist, as well as a local high school student who started TeenzTalk.org, a discussion forum for teens across the world.
The discussion series is about building a bridge between youth and their parents or adults, Enriquez said, adding she’s pleased a local student will be speaking as well.
“I think it will be really helpful and effective, because you’re getting it from a student and someone who’s experienced these issues firsthand.”
She hopes to promote regular, calm discussions between youth and their parents about issues such as academic pressure, how to balance family and social lives and general mental wellness.
“Being understood is something that’s hard for adults and youth to do sometimes,” she Enriquez said. “It’s really important to take the time and learn where someone’s coming from.”
Enriquez first got involved in community activism two years ago while in middle school. At the time, she said she was inspired by this topic but opted to focus her first Stride for Awareness on water conservation during the drought.
Recognizing both middle and high school students face obstacles, she chose to work with PAL to hopefully help students recognize they’re not alone.
“This event will promote, and hopefully show people there’s always someone for you to reach out to,” Enriquez said. “It’s to build a bridge and help connect us.”
The Stride for Awareness speaker series is 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 20, at the Martin Luther King Center, 725 Monte Diablo Ave., San Mateo. The 5K Run/Walk for Student Wellness begins 9 a.m. Sunday, May 21, at Seal Point Park. Visit tinyurl.com/awarenessspeakersession to register for the speaker series and tinyurl.com/PAL5k to register for the race.