It is not easy for students and low income families to find good, affordable health care in a convenient location—all the more reason why Manual Arts Student Body President Garaldine Cabrera was thrilled to see the new Mark Ridley-Thomas Wellness Center at Manual Arts open its doors at the center’s recent grand opening.
“I am overjoyed,” said Cabrera. “My community has to overcome so many obstacles to get good healthcare, like access to transportation and inconvenient scheduling. Now we have this in the palm of our hands. For that, I say thank you.”
The rollout of school based health centers in the Second District continues. The Manual Arts health center, which is approximately 2,000 square feet, is one of a total of eight school-based health centers to open in the Second District in the past two years, including Fremont Wellness Center and Community Garden, Washington Preparatory High School Wellness Center and the Jordan Wellness Center at Jordan High School.
Chairman Ridley-Thomas is working to build at least four more health centers within the next few years. The centers, which offer comprehensive services, are not just filling important gaps in care: they are redefining how healthcare is delivered. Instead of requiring residents to travel to designated medical centers for all of their wellness needs, the school-based centers create a constellation of community care that is easy for both students and their families to access.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas has long championed school-based centers, but the clinic at Manual Arts High School, from which he graduated in 1972, has special meaning for him. Not only was he both proud and humbled to have the facility named for him, as an alumni and a determined advocate for health centers at schools, he remarked that with the new school-based clinics, a labor of more than a decade has become a reality.
“As a long-time supporter and advocate of health centers, I am just really, really glad to be here,” he said. “As a public servant this is what you live to do—to contribute to the quality of life to the community.”
Although students had a clinic available on campus, the new health center offers significantly more services, including immunizations, physicals, lab services, STD/HIV testing, birth control, vision and hearing testing, nutritional counseling as well as mental health care. Families also can receive health insurance enrollment, case management, health education. The new center will also be open to the public.
Also, LA’s Promise, the nonprofit organization that runs Manual Arts, has partnered with the center’s operator, St. Johns Well Child and Family Center, to launch innovative programs to improve student health and wellness. They recently received grant funding from the California Endowment to provide one physical a year to every 9th grade student with follow-up care. Indeed, as part of a 21st century education, good healthcare is no longer an afterthought.
“Students now have access to robust sources, such as health screenings and mental health services,” said Manual Arts Principal Robert Whitman. “For many students, such resources are as equally important as a strong, rigorous academic program.”
The Mark Ridley-Thomas Wellness Center is expected to officially open its doors for business on June 21.