In an effort to highlight new and creative ways school-based health staff are engaging youth in conversations around health and well-being, we are starting a series called It Starts with You(th).
Country Doctor Community Health Centers opened their first school-based health center (SBHC) in the 2019-20 school year. In establishing their clinic at Meany Middle School in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, they engaged with students, families, building and district staff, and community partners from the get-go. Building off this early success, they received funding to open their second SBHC at Nova High School in Seattle’s Central District in the 2020-21 school year. Applying lessons learned from opening Meany, Country Doctor engaged youth leaders as co-decision-makers throughout the process of applying for funding and planning for the opening of the Nova Wellness Center.
Meany Middle School
At Meany, the SBHC team created a Student Leadership Council for the health center. While the first meeting coincided with school closures due to COVID-19, two student leaders attended the rescheduled virtual meeting. SBHC staff recruited students by advertising in the morning announcements, with teachers and counselors, and to the Leadership class. They posted a sign-up sheet in the SBHC with big lettering to grab visitors’ attention. Students responded positively to the opportunity to build a leadership role in their school. And the potential for meeting-time snacks didn’t hurt either.
Looking ahead to the 2020-21 school year at Meany, Country Doctor released a student survey to help improve services. In the survey, they asked if students had interest in joining the SBHC Leadership Council. Nine respondents expressed interest in being the SBHC’s student voice within the school as a way to give the SBHC feedback, provide student-based guidance, as well serve as ambassadors of SBHC services to their peers.
Nova High School
Nova High School students have advocated for a SBHC in their building for many years. They were change agents in the process well before Country Doctor was selected as the healthcare sponsors for the Nova Wellness Center. Recognizing this, Country Doctor invited these student leaders to the table from the very beginning, recognizing how crucial their voice and leadership was in building a successful clinic.
From early on in the application process, student leaders have actively participated in project meetings including those to design temporary clinic space and to interview new staff members. These committed student leaders even participated in meetings on the day of their graduation and after they were no longer officially Nova students.
Nurse Practitioner, Aviva Rubin shares:
“The Nova students have been the driving energy behind this entire effort. They had the vision for a Wellness Center and advocated for it. Our role is to implement and build upon their vision. We feel honored to be invited into this community that has been so intentionally and thoughtfully built.”
Among other efforts, the Nova student leaders have recruited classmates and Nova alumni to produce the art that will decorate the clinic. Slated to open in school year 2020-21, the Nova Wellness Center will continue to center student voice, building in continuous, intentional opportunities for feedback and growth. Country Doctor also plans to have students involved in the operation of the clinic from curating the art to participating in internships.
These two examples from Country Doctor show creative strategies to actively and intentionally engage youth in SBHC services. We applaud their efforts and look forward to seeing their success in the coming years.
Have a youth engagement story you’d like to share? Contact the team at Public Health!