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Erica Padilla-Chavez

(pronouns: she/her/hers)

I was born in Watsonville, the first U.S.-born daughter of Mexican immigrant parents. As a small child, I remember vividly the day that Cesar Chavez came to our home: He was the first person who told me that I would be going to college. 

After graduating from Watsonville High School, I went to UC-Berkeley and earned a BA in sociology. A few years later, as a new parent, I attended Golden Gate University in San Francisco and completed a master’s in public administration. A firm believer in the value of an ongoing education, I later received a certificate from the California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions Program at the University of Southern California as a trained leader in behavioral health. 

My career embodies my commitment to the advancement of opportunities for individuals whose voices are often disregarded in places of power. By leading and facilitating collaborations with partners across  various systems, I believe we can break down the barriers that get in the way of people thriving.

As the CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, Inc., I oversee our community-based mental health, substance abuse, and prevention services for more than 7,000 children and their families. I am fortunate to be using my visionary, equity-focused and outcome-driven skills to lead an organization that does so much for the community that raised me. I am committed to the idea that every individual should have a strong sense of wellbeing; it is the key to realizing their full potential. 

I am a proud mother of two and married my best friend, Alejandro Chavez, a UC-Santa Cruz graduate whom I met in Watsonville through non-profit collaboration. Together, our family is rooted in values of social justice, equity, and respect for all.

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