CAN is proud to announce that Ashley Solis-Pavon was selected by the local community as the 2017 Santa Cruz NEXTies “Person under 18.”

Ashley Solis-Pavon, a member of CAN’s youth empowerment project, Growing Justice, was selected by the local community as the 2017 Santa Cruz NEXTies “Person under 18.” Ashley was honored along with the other “NEXTies” at an event at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, California. Congratulations, Ashley!

Ashley Solis-Pavon, selected by the local community as the 2017 Santa Cruz NEXTies “Person under 18.”

Ashley Solis-Pavon, left, and Rose Cohen, executive director of CAN

The Santa Cruz NEXTies’ annual award show honors the “people you’re going to be hearing about from now on,” said Matthew Swinnerton of Event Santa Cruz in a 2015 Good Times interview. Ashley was honored for the work she is doing with the Growing Justice youth team in Watsonville and for the role she has played in representing the team at CAN’s 2016 International Youth Exchange in Nicaragua.
Before traveling to Nicaragua, Ashley shared with the television station Univision Noticias Monterey-Salinas how she was excited to travel to the Youth Exchange to: “show [my peers] how these [community] gardens benefit our families. I will also show them how we can prevent violence in our communities with gardens. I have seen how a lot of young people come to the garden … and it makes me happy to see them here instead of on the streets doing other things.”

Ashley, back row center, with family and friends

CAN’s Growing Justice project empowers youth to understand the interrelated challenges of food insecurity, violence, and poor environmental quality and to assess the significance of community gardens. In their work with the project, youth gain practical skills that empower them to advocate for and spearhead changes in their community.



Early on a Saturday morning, youth members of CAN’s Growing Justice project climbed into a van. At a time when many would prefer to be sleeping in, this dedicated youth team was heading off to take part in an all-day workshop on graphic design to kick off the Spring Workshop series. When they reached their destination, the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus, the teens stood in a circle with students from the UCSC Everett Program. The youth were there to participate in a Spring Impactathon on graphic design. Before starting up the laptops, everyone shared names, where they grew up, and one way they would like to see their community change


Sharing ideas at the Impactathon

Impactathons are “all-day, all hands-on deck” events in which students in the Everett Program partner with nonprofits to offer introductory trainings to digital tools, support with social media, and much more! UCSC’s Everett Program is about using digital tools for social innovation. The Growing Justice team spent a day learning how to use a free, online-based graphic design program called Canva. The youth’s aim is to use the tools to communicate their ideas for ways to create a more just and sustainable future for Watsonville and Pajaro families: affordable housing, community safety, and food access.

Project Highlight: Communicating an Idea for a More Just Future

From the beginning, one concern expressed by the Growing Justice youth is the lack of affordable housing in their community. In 2016, the median price for single-family homes in Santa Cruz County set an all-time high – $798,000. One Growing Justice team member applied the new skills he gained in using Canva to create a poster that expresses what he would like to see in his community in California.

Through the youth’s work with CAN’s Growing Justice project they gain support in raising their voices and advocating for change.