It was an overcast day… a little cooler than it had been all week with dark low clouds and drizzle adding an unexpected specter of rain on a September 16th morning. Initially people were standing around awaiting the start of LACEF’s big event… the announcement of our Stay Well Learn Well® School Health Center Initiative. Our guests were lamenting the brisk change in the soon-to-be fall weather and wondered barely aloud whether or not it would rain before the press conference started.
When the students from Lennox School arrived, the atmosphere of the whole event dramatically changed. It became more charged… more exciting. It became real. In the faces of these cute, sweet youngsters, we could see firsthand why we were launching this hugely important school-based health initiative. I could see how the adults responded… they immediately seemed to perk up.
Once our news conference was underway, a degree of seriousness came over our assembled special guests comprised of school district officials, community residents, teachers, health practitioners and elected representatives. But even during the various speeches, having the school children there gave the event an added joy and youthful energy, and a few of the speakers were able to persuade the children to participate during the presentation.
Many of the people with whom I spoke were so thrilled that this clinic was opening – especially the full-service dental clinic that would soon be built behind the health clinic in a renovated Lennox School space.
Lennox School officials commented that while medical care for elementary, middle and high school students is critically important, students’ need for regular dental check-ups and care is often overlooked. They said when you think of a child with a toothache, who can’t concentrate in class because of the pain, you realize why good dental care and prevention takes on a whole new meaning and level of importance.
I spoke with Joann Isken, the Asst. Superintendent of the Lennox School District. Joann expressed the need to have these school-based health clinics available to community residents in partnership with the schools. She stated that by providing health access to their students and their parents, Lennox School District would be giving access to the community as a whole. Joann said she wanted the school’s clinic to be viewed as a place for everyone.
Another guest I spoke with commented on the ability for the community to walk to the clinic from their homes nearby, a convenience that was greatly welcomed because many of the residents in the school’s neighborhood didn’t always have access to transportation.
In fact, while we were all standing outside the clinic several members of the community were walking by, taking walks with their children, and they stopped by the Stay Well Learn Well® news conference event to find out what was going on. Once it was explained to these mothers that the clinic would be open for their children and for themselves, they were very excited.
During the tour of the clinic, many commented favorably on the available space inside the Lennox School facility. Many people remarked that most doctors’ offices don’t have the amount of space that the clinic was providing. When L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas arrived, the excitement level increased. Everyone I spoke with expressed how the clinic was much needed and the need for more clinics throughout the County was great.
The overall impression from the children, superintendent and clinic workers that I received was one of pride and gratitude. They were proud that the medical clinic and dental clinic would be serving them and their community, and grateful that they were being recognized for their efforts.
Dawn D. Turner
October 11, 2011