Students walk in front of Hollister High School afterschool. Photo by Monserrat Solis.
Students walk in front of Hollister High School afterschool. Photo by Monserrat Solis.

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“It feels like I can’t trust people at school after the lockdown,” Frida Chavirin, a Hollister High student attending BenitoLink’s Community Vision San Benito County said. 

High school age, college and recent college graduates gathered at the Youth Alliance offices in Hollister for the listening session. 

When asked about current issues, high school students immediately referenced the recent lockdowns at Hollister High School. Several said they were worried that people could easily walk through the Hollister High school campus at any time.

Rocky Gonzalez, a student at Hollister High, said the school had three lockdowns in 2023 and felt that school safety was a huge issue. 

A lockdown in May was determined to be a programming error that caused panic among the students, staff and parents. 

The school was again put on lockdown in September where two students were alleged to be selling drugs. A loaded gun was also found on a student, Hollister police said.

“Whenever the speaker goes off at school, I panic,” Hollister High student Alondra Medina said. 

Some students said there would be big consequences if school safety was overlooked, including low attendance, school shootings and students joining gangs.

Youth participating in session. Photo by Monserrat Solis.

If school safety were addressed effectively, the group said the best possible outcome would be that there are no drugs and no guns on campus, leading to a safer environment and higher graduation rates.

To improve school safety, the group recommended closing the campus to the public during school hours, installing metal detectors at the entrances and providing protective equipment to teachers in case of an emergency.

The participants also raised concerns about the cost of living, a lack of jobs and drug overdoses in the county.

“Now that I’m older, I see how much my parents are making,” Medina said. “They’re not making a lot.”

One student said if the cost of living didn’t improve there would be another economic crash and people would not be able to provide for themselves and their families. 

Regarding drug use, one participant shared that a family member died from an overdose.

The group agreed that the rise in crime and drugs were because of an increase in housing.

Youth participating in session. Photo by Monserrat Solis.

If drug addiction were not to improve, the group agreed that there would be more homelessness, more drug abuse, overdoses and deaths. 

If leaders acted on negative economic conditions, addressed drug use and other solutions suggested, the community would see a decrease in crime, the group said. 

To improve school safety, crime and the cost of living, the group said there should be a youth advocacy council, fundraising toward youth services and programs for homeless people. 

Participants said community leaders should be open to youth opinions. Rocky Gonzalez, a Hollister High School senior, suggested the prospect of running for mayor.

“We are the future and they should ask us for our opinion,” Chavirin said. 

BenitoLink’s listening sessions are a continuation of those done by the Community Foundation for San Benito County in 2011 and 2012. Several notable results followed sessions, including:

  • The founding of BenitoLink, a nonprofit news organization serving the residents of San Benito County with local and regional news and information
  • The REACH Parks Foundation, which has been central to the development of parks and walking trails in San Benito County
  • The Community Foundation Women’s Fund, which has helped women with financial support and educational programs
  • Local nonprofits such as the San Benito County Farm Bureau identified the need for leaders with a better understanding of agriculture, and worked to bring qualified team members into leadership positions

The 2023 Vision San Benito County Listening sessions are supported by the Calhoun/Christiano Family Fund and the Community Foundation for San Benito County. There are approximately 20 Listening Sessions scheduled throughout September and October to hear about issues and solutions from many small segments of the community. BenitoLink is reporting back the results in articles about each session. 

RSVPs to attend the listening sessions are required.

To RSVP, please fill out this form, or email

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Monserrat Solis covers San Benito County for BenitoLink as part of the California Local News Fellowship with UC Berkeley. A San Fernando Valley native, she's written for the Southern California News Group,...