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Mid-City CAN Blog

Students already benefiting from Monroe Clark health center

The Greenlining Institute named Sadad Ali a San Diego Health Equity Fellow
Andrea Vizcarra, a Monroe Clark student, found out about her high-blood pressure because of the school's new Health and Wellness Center. She talked about the experience on Oct. 24 at the grand opening ceremony.

A 13-year-old girl embodied the transformative power of Monroe Clark’s new Health and Wellness Center on Oct. 24 at the school.

About 300 middle-school students, parents, community members, politicians and government officials and members of The California Endowment, Price Charities, Mid-City CAN and other community organizations listened as the middle-school student took the stage and described how she discovered her medical condition.

“Not so long ago I found out I have high-blood pressure” at the new Health and Wellness Center, said Andrea Vizcarra, a Monroe Clark student. “If I didn’t lose weight and get healthy, I would have to take pills for the rest of my life. And I didn’t want that.”

Andrea said if it weren’t for the clinic, she wouldn’t have known that she needed to change her diet. She also wouldn’t have been able to take control of the looming threat to her health.

“I had to change my eating habits, get real and be on track,” she said.

Andrea’s newfound knowledge about her health and risk factors were part of the celebration at the Grand Opening of the Monroe Clark Health and Wellness Center. This opportunity to become more informed and healthier will exist for all Monroe Clark students, as well as the students’ siblings, and students at the feeder schools of Hamilton Elementary, Rowan Elementary and Florence Joyner Elementary.

Thomas P. Liberto, the principal of Monroe Clark Middle School, talked about the clinic’s role as a force-multiplier in a school of approximately 1,200 students where Academic Performance Index test scores, the official yardstick for California’s schools, and attendance already are showing marked improvement.

“I have no doubt that with the health center in place, [attendance] is going to increase even more,” Liberto said.

Data supports the idea that an on-campus health center might promote higher attendance levels. Dorothy Zirkle, director of health services at Price Charities, supplied an attendance chart for Central Elementary, a City Heights school with a clinic that opened about two years ago. Attendance percentages are slightly higher month-over-month since the Central school-based health center opened in October 2010, according to the schools data.

To see a larger version of the chart below, click here.

And although Monroe Clark’s clinic officially opened near the end of October, it has been serving students since the summer.
“Hardly is there a time when I walk in there and it is not busy with patients,” Principal Liberto said. “It is only going to get better as word of mouth and advertising goes out.”

The center is a true collaboration. Funding came from The California Endowment, according to Liberto. The school also used some Prop. S funds to support it and Price Charities matched those.

Price Charities also provided a lot of “leadership for us, provided the steering and the vision,” he said.

Mid-City Community Clinic and La Maestra Community Health Centers operate the on-site health center. They each alternate staffing it for two and a half days each.

The leader of The California Endowment admired the center and the school’s design.

“This school is beautiful, and this health center is beautiful,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment, at the opening event. “And there are now probably 900 middle schools around the state that are jealous. They are going to be banging on our door because they are going to want the same thing.”

Creating the clinic involved many partners, but the most important piece was “the leadership of the community residents and the young people here in City Heights,” he said.

Ross also credited the leadership of Steve Eldred, the Endowment’s program manager for City Heights, and Beatriz Solis, the Endowment’s director of healthy communities in the south region, as well one of the “best foundation partnerships in the state, between Price Charities and The California Endowment.”

San Diego’s mayor also talked about the importance of local leaders and resident involvement.

“You know what it means to me that we are finally breaking through on this, this means that it has been the persistence of all you community leaders,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders. “The participation by the community leadership in City Heights has never wavered, and what that shows is that if you keep at it you are going to get the things you need and you deserve.

“I think today is an excellent example of that.”

One of Price Charities representatives, who spoke near the end of the ceremony, reminded the crowd how the typical student will be healthier and more focused at the middle school because of the clinic.

“Think about how much more learning occurs because, that child was in school, or didn’t have an ear infection, or didn’t have a toothache and could pay attention,” said Tad Parzen, executive vice-president at Price Charities.

The theme of focusing on those students, played out through the event. For the embodiment of that theme, 13-year-old Andrea, the hard work of prevention is paying off.

“My next visit [to the Health and Wellness Center] a month later, I went for a checkup and they said that everything was fine,” she said, but she will continue to get checkups at the clinic every month to monitor the issue.

And it’s not surprising that both Andrea and her mother are big fans of the center.

“Mom said it is very helpful, because I’m right here,” Andrea said. “And she knows where it is and she doesn’t need to go somewhere far.”

The center has inspired more than just a lifestyle change in Andrea.

“Health is very important to me, because when I’m older I want to be a nurse,” she said in her speech.

Monroe Clark Health and Wellness Center
4388 Thorne St.
(619) 563-6801 ext. 2018
7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

Health center services
• First aid
• Health, vision, dental, hearing and scoliosis screenings
• Health promotion and counseling
• Communicable disease control and immunizations
• Maintaining health records of all students

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