Reflections on the Stay Well Learn Well® news conference

The day was gloomy and a little cold at Lennox School District, which surprised me because all along the news conference event planning group – which included staff from Lennox School District, T.H.E. Clinic and LACEF – had been anticipating a warm, and possibly even very hot, day… given that it was mid-September and the summer’s heat was still lingering. Now, here we are and it’s suddenly fall-like and we’re wondering if we should fetch umbrellas from our cars.

Driving down the freeway, drizzle dampened my windshield. As my car’s wiper blades were sweeping the water away… my thoughts were centered on the canopy I had ordered for the event refreshments area. I was thinking that we now need that canopy covering, not to shield our guests from the hot sun, but possibly to keep our guests dry with the pesky drizzle coming down.

I arrived at the Lennox School District early – about 9:45 am – to make sure that everything was going as planned. I had the Stay Well Learn Well® banner and I still wasn’t sure if it was going to be permanently affixed to the clinic building, or if we were going to have to come up with some other creative manner for displaying our new logo for our important new initiative in school-based healthcare for students and neighborhood residents.

I arrived. The parking lot was empty, but I saw people at work. The canopy I had ordered was up… hooray… and the other banner for the home of the future dental clinic was being attached to the canopy. The podium was in place and all I had to do was stay out of the way.

Within 30-minutes, there was a buzz of activity all around the Lennox School District and the T.H.E. Clinic in Lennox as people started to arrive, excited about what was happening that morning.

Groups of two’s and three’s were scattered throughout the driveway, all introducing one another and sharing why they were there. Among the early arrivals were members from LACEF’s Board of Directors, T.H.E. Clinic’s Board of Directors, Lennox School District, community and neighborhood organizations, local churches and PTA members. Everyone’s excitement was palpable.

Guests I spoke with talked about the important partnership with LACEF and what we were going to be able to do together to reach many families and their kids through this school based health clinic conveniently located at their school site. Emy Raphael and Dr. Pamelyn Close from LACEF’s Board of Directors were happily chatting with many of our guests and also reconnecting with old acquaintances in the education and health fields.

While I wasn’t in many of their conversations for a great length of time – I was filled with the nervous energy you have when an important even is coming to fruition… though I hope it didn’t show – I could hear in their voices a genuine thrill to see this new chapter in LACEF’s history unfolding before them and them recognizing the great possibilities moving forward for LACEF, children and teens and L.A. County’s school communities.

The real thrill of the Stay Well Learn Well® news conference event for me was seeing the sea of blue descending! The wave rolling into view was about 30 3rd graders from Jefferson Elementary School dressed in blue shirts and marching in formation with their teachers.

They were arriving to witness and participate in our Stay Well Learn Well® news event. They were happy to be there – probably because they were out of class for a short spell, or maybe it was the promise of receiving (healthy!) cookies at the end of the event.

Whichever it was, the kids were smiling and chatty and happily posing for photographs. Their arrival at the scene of our event reminded me of when I was a teacher and underscored for me and all our guests why we were there doing what we were doing with Stay Well Learn Well®.

I had a chance to talk with the kids for a bit and we wound up talking about the importance of learning different languages. I shared with them a little about going to France while I was in college and how many languages I knew… to which the kids were eager to say how many languages they knew – two languages… three languages… and even… four languages! One little girl was teaching her class to speak Armenian and a little boy sang the ABC song in French.

With the arrival of LACEF’s Board Chair Cynthia McClain-Hill, we quickly began the news conference. Throughout the speeches given, the theme that came through loud and clear was gratitude for the opportunity to expand the health services of the clinic, open a new dental clinic and great excitement about the possibilities.

As our speakers attested, health in schools has been moved off of the public agenda gradually over the past decades, and I am proud that LACEF’s work is again making the health of schoolchildren and its relationship to learning a part of public discourse and action.

For me it was simply thrilling to see all of the people who came out in support of our Stay Well Learn Well® launch and being thrilled to hear the words of praise, and humbled to receive words of thanks from the families that will benefit from our efforts.

Letty Bustillos
October 19, 2011

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