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Empowering Youth Mental Health: The Healing Power of Nature and Purpose

Welcome back to the eighth week of our EmpowerGen column! As we continue our journey, we shift our focus to a pressing issue affecting youth in both Boulder and Baja: mental health. The rise in suicide rates, school shootings, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgency to address mental health challenges among young individuals. In this article, we will explore the transformative potential of connecting youth to nature and purpose, backed by studies and articles that showcase the healing power of these experiences.

The Challenge:

Today’s youth face unprecedented challenges, from academic pressures to social media overload, contributing to a surge in mental health issues. 

The need for mental health support is evident, and we must find holistic approaches to address these challenges effectively.

The Healing Power of Nature:

Numerous studies have highlighted the positive impact of nature on mental health. Spending time in nature has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending just two hours per week in nature is associated with better physical and mental health.

Nature as a Source of Purpose:

Beyond its calming effects, nature can also be a catalyst for purpose and personal growth. Engaging in conservation efforts or connecting with environmental causes allows youth to find meaning and purpose in their lives. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that youth engaged in environmental projects reported higher levels of self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

The Playa Puertecito Effect:

Our Boulder to Baja project has allowed us to witness firsthand the transformative power of nature on youth mental health. The magical experiences on Playa Puertecito’s land have kindled a spirit of hope, fostering resilience and a deep sense of purpose among the young participants. As they immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, they also connect with a larger community, forging bonds that support their mental well-being.

Building a Supportive Community:

Alongside nature, fostering a sense of community is essential in supporting youth mental health. The American Psychological Association emphasizes the role of social connections in protecting against mental health issues. Our project emphasizes collaboration and unity, creating spaces where young individuals can feel supported and connected.

Spreading Awareness:

To address the mental health crisis among youth, we must raise awareness and advocate for change. By sharing stories of transformation and the healing power of nature and purpose, we can inspire communities to prioritize mental health support for young individuals.

How you can help someone who is struggling Now:


As we continue our Boulder to Baja adventure, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to empowering youth mental health. The evidence is clear: connecting with nature and discovering purpose are potent remedies for mental well-being. Together, let us support the next generation in navigating life’s complexities with strength, resilience, and a profound connection to the healing power of nature.  

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column,  visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)


1: Youth data 2023 | Mental Health America 4: Kids’ mental health is in crisis. Here’s what psychologists are doing to help | American Psychological Association 2: Prevalence Data 2023 | Mental Health America 3: Mental Health Statistics (2023) – Forbes Health

National Academy of Sciences – Nature and Mental Health: https://www.pnas.org/content/116/11/5187

University of Minnesota – Environmental Projects and Well-Being: https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/184916

American Psychological Association – Social Connections and Mental Health: https://www.apa.org/topics/social-connections

1: 11 Tips to Support Someone Struggling With Mental Health | U.S. News 2: Tips For How to Help a Person with Mental Illness | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness 3: How to Help Someone Who’s Having a Mental Health Crisis | GoodRx 4: Helping others with mental health problems – Every Mind Matters | NHS


Tags: #youthempowerment, #mentalhealth, #awareness, #nature, #healing, #playapuertecito, #anxiety, #stress, #community, #support, #helpeachother, #empoweryouth, #emotions, #balance, #change, #socialmedia, #unity, #hope, #feelbrandnew, #enviroment

Jill’s Journey: Unleashing the Power of Youth and Genius at Playa Puertecito

In our exploration of the transformative realm that is Playa Puertecito, we have encountered remarkable individuals who embody the spirit of youth empowerment. This week, we shine a spotlight on Jill, a beacon of inspiration who has been igniting change via PeaceJam and other projects since the tender age of nine. Her unique perspective on the diverse spaces and worlds that intertwine within and beyond Playa Puertecito unveils profound insights and a passion for creating a world where many worlds fit. If you are interested in reading last week’s article on Playa Puertecito, you can do so here.

From the depths of the sea to the soaring heights of possibility, Jill’s journey has been a testament to the extraordinary power of youth. In the midst of scuba diving and snorkeling adventures, Jill has discovered the remarkable interconnectedness between the environment, experiences, and thoughts. She notices the effortless transitions between different realms, seamlessly navigating the physical world while diving into the depths of her own inner being.

Recently, Jill shared her discovery of the term “genius” and its original meaning—a place that exudes exceptional power derived from natural forces and the people who inhabit it. She draws parallels between the magnificence of Playa Puertecito and the genius that lies within its very essence. Just as ancient Greek spots were revered as genius loci, Jill recognizes the multifaceted elements that converge to create the sheer brilliance of this place. It is not merely the intelligence or knowledge held within individuals but the collective magnitude of all that encompasses Playa Puertecito.

Ancient Greek philosophy recognized the concept of genius loci, the guardian spirits or deities associated with specific places. These spirits were believed to embody the unique essence and power of their respective locations, shaping the experiences and interactions of those who encountered them. The recognition of genius loci is a testament to the profound influence that places hold over human connection and understanding. You can read more here about Why Ancient Athens Was a City of Creativity and Genius – The Atlantic

As we delve into Jill’s remarkable story, we invite you to join us on a captivating journey of discovery and empowerment. Through her eyes, we witness the magic that unfolds within Playa Puertecito and the immense power that young voices possess in shaping a better world. Jill’s encounters with the praying mantis, bioluminescent wonders, bees, and other creatures on the land showcase her deep connection with nature. With a radiant smile and an abundance of trust and love, she welcomes these animals onto her, embracing the profound bond between humans and the natural world.

Join us next week as we unveil the captivating story of Jill, her boundless passion for change, and the extraordinary impact she is making within and beyond Playa Puertecito. Together, let us celebrate the power of youth and continue to cultivate a world where dreams become reality.

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)

Note: The reference to ancient Greek genius loci is a general concept and not attributed to a specific source. Ancient Greek philosophy and beliefs are widely studied and can be found in various scholarly articles and books on mythology and ancient culture.

Unveiling the Extraordinary: A Journey of Youth Empowerment at Playa Puertecito: Boulder to Baja EmpowerGen Adventure Series

Last week, we embarked on an unforgettable adventure to Playa Puertecito, a place where the magnificence of turquoise waters merges with the enchantment of nature. Read last week’s article written on the land here. 

As we continue to explore the profound connections and transformative experiences that unfold in this remarkable sanctuary, we are reminded of the immense power of youth empowerment and the remarkable stories that emerge from young changemakers.

Ulysses Diaz, a volunteer and local community builder, in his contemplation of our purpose in this beautiful place, prompted us to reflect on the deeper significance of our presence. His questions, “Why are we here? What are we looking for?” resonate deeply, urging us to consider the impact our decisions today have on generations to come. Playa Puertecito becomes the stage where our hearts, muscles, and spirits align with nature, Earth, and all that is mysterious and alive. It is a place where being uncomfortable becomes an opportunity for growth and where we reinforce our belief in a future where many worlds coexist harmoniously.

Alyssa, a community health nurse, beautifully captured the essence of Playa Puertecito as a majestic realm where nature’s beauty and wonder envelop us. It is a space where we can tap into our inner child, embracing play, mystery, and a profound connection to the source of all life. The stewards of the land, along with the warm-hearted Gente of the local community, create an atmosphere of welcome and care, making us feel like we belong. Simmering in the starlight of the night sky and dancing with the bioluminescence in the sea, we witness the symphony of life unfolding. Eagle rays gracefully glide through the waters, puffer fish share their contagious smiles, and a multitude of magnificent sea creatures open their doors to us. In this enchanting place, we are reminded of the vibrational harmony of la Tierra, urging us to cherish each day as a blessing and to express gratitude for all that Mother Earth provides.

Victor Jr., one of our exceptional guides and family partners, invites us to revel in the glory of Playa Puertecito. From small encounters with marine life like the endearing pufferfish to thrilling night swims amidst bioluminescence, every experience connects us in a marvelous and unique way with the Earth. The sheer joy and vitality that fill this place awaken our spirits and infuse us with a sense of being truly alive. Victor’s intention is to provide us with unforgettable moments, woven with the essence of Playa Puertecito. Each day spent in this extraordinary setting offers spontaneous adventures, brimming with serendipity and unique encounters. Amongst the countless remarkable experiences, swimming with eagle rays and witnessing the breathtaking bioluminescent spectacle in the Sea of Cortez stand out as indelible highlights etched into our memories.

Kate, PeaceJam Executive Director, who helped orchestrate this adventure, was sitting on the beach during our final morning, and beautifully expressed the magic that envelops Playa Puertecito. “In this haven, we transcend the chaos of the outside world, peering deep into our own beings. Amidst fears, doubts, opinions, and beliefs, this land liberates us, grounding and illuminating our souls. Playa Puertecito becomes a space where stillness and love emanate, revealing the profound interconnectedness of all things.”

In our journey at Playa Puertecito, we are privileged to encounter incredible individuals who embody the spirit of youth changemakers. Next week, we will shine a spotlight on Jill, a remarkable young voice who has been making a difference since the age of nine. We will delve into her unique perspective on the different spaces and worlds that exist within and beyond Playa Puertecito. Moreover, we will explore the concept of “genius” and its original meaning, which describes a place that possesses extraordinary power derived from natural forces and the people who inhabit it.

Join us next week as we unravel the inspiring story of Jill, a true catalyst for change, and discover the profound insights she brings to the transformative journey at Playa Puertecito. Together, let us continue to embrace the extraordinary and pave the way for a future where dreams become reality.

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)

Diving into a World of Wonders: The Unforgettable Playa Puertecito Adventure

Immersed in the mesmerizing turquoise waters, a sense of awe washed over me as a blissful puffer fish found solace in my hands. The gentle strokes from 28-year-old Victor Vargas Junior, one of the stewards of Playa Puertecito, created a connection that words cannot fully capture. If only tears could mix with the surrounding water, I would have wept with overwhelming joy. Victor, the son of my esteemed business partner, is not just a steward but also a part-owner, embodying the intergenerational vision we strive to cultivate at Playa Puertecito. Alongside him, his sister Anneth, a 24-year-old visionary, orchestrated a magnificent fiesta for both Loretanos and now Puertecitanos, exemplifying our commitment to multigenerational collaboration and the vital importance of listening to the voices of the next generation and the local community, who hold the keys to our off-grid paradise in Loreto.

As I sit atop the community palapa, embraced by a gentle breeze, my surroundings become a canvas for inspiration. Surrounding me are the passionate team of PeaceJam volunteers, who generously sponsored a trip to explore the endless possibilities of co-creating a new eco-village and off-grid campus dedicated to play, healing, and the love of nature.

This land, situated on 20 acres near the picturesque fishing community of Loreto, Baja California Sur, holds a profound significance. It is here that a caretaking couple and their fully grown nephew have embraced a fully off-grid lifestyle since December 2022, when our collective vision first broke ground and laid the foundation for an eco-friendly structure. This bold step toward sustainable living has already fostered connections with the mayor and her esteemed officials. I couldn’t help but express my admiration for their leadership, proclaiming “Tres Mujeres Fuertes y Amorosas” (Three Strong and Loving Women) guiding this community. This powerful bond has inspired the establishment of a sister city connection, fueling our “Boulder to Baja” adventure of cross-cultural learning and co-creation.

Yet, as I pen this article, I am keenly aware of the limitations of words in capturing the true essence and magnificence of Playa Puertecito. It is a place that defies easy description, a tapestry of beauty woven through the stories of the growing community surrounding this project.

“I just swam through the universe! That was the best night of my life!” exclaimed Jill, her eyes gleaming with delight. Her midnight snorkeling escapade beneath a star-studded sky unveiled the mesmerizing dance of bioluminescence in the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez.

In the following articles, we will embark on an exploration of the enchanting stories that unfold at Playa Puertecito. Together, we will dive into the depths of this magical world, where dreams take flight and generations thrive. Join us next week as we delve further into the wonders of this extraordinary journey and encounter the extraordinary souls who call Playa Puertecito home. Check out last week’s article on AboutBoulder for more about Playa Puertecito.

Stay tuned for the next installment, where we will share more heartwarming encounters, captivating experiences, and the profound insights that Playa Puertecito has to offer. Together, let’s discover the uncharted realms of this remarkable place and pave the way for a future where dreams become reality.

To read more empowering articles and discover how you can share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)

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