SPOTLIGHT: Sun Street Centers
Sun Street Centers pivots to online—and massive—outreach during the pandemic.
By Mary Duan
The student was reluctant, the nonprofit was dogged.
Angelique Canchola first came across Sun Street Centers as a high school junior, when the alcohol- and drug-addiction education and treatment orga-
nization brought its STEPS program to Soledad High. Previously, substance
abuse (and information about it), hadn’t been part of her worldview. But
STEPS—which stands for Safe Teens Empowerment Project—taught her
about substance-abuse issues facing her community.
She was interested and engaged, and then came the pandemic. STEPS
meetings went to the virtual realm and Canchola, now a senior, wasn’t as
interested in participating. But Sun Streets team was “adamant,” Canchola
says, about getting previously engaged students back to STEPS meetings.
“They don’t teach about substance abuse issues at school and I had no prior knowledge,” she says. “STEPS teaches us what substances can do to our brains and bodies, and they also provide life-skills training and an opportunity to do community projects.” To that end, Canchola did a segment
with Radio Bilingue to talk about prescription drug abuse. It’s also helped inform her future: Canchola plans to study public health in college.
“The work we do informing the community and preventing teens from going down the wrong path has inspired me to go down the path of
public health,” she says.
Keeping a nonprofit going during regular times is hard enough. Keeping it going during a pandemic is a miracle—especially a nonprofit in which the face-to-face contact of group meetings can be pivotal for people trying to
maintain their sobriety.
Sun Street Centers Executive Director Anna Foglia says the Salinas-based nonprofit has been “very, very, very busy,” since the pandemic struck.
“The need has increased, in terms of people losing their sobriety or new
people abusing alcohol and drugs because of the stress and mental
anguish of this experience,” Foglia says. “Being isolated, with no normal activity, people are bored and scared and dealing with the stress by drinking.”
With funds raised through Monterey County Gives!, Sun Street wants to take previously in-person activities and make them virtual and useful. Foglia lists a variety of avenues: youth summits and town halls; radio commercials and TikTok videos; new websites and other social media.
“We’re pouring our intentions into social media and creating a curriculum
and having students tell us what they want,” Foglia says. “We’re trying to do as much as we can for students, with countywide telemeetings for them to talk about prevention and to help them stay active and involved.”