LOS ANGELES (April 18, 2017) - The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted today to approve a proposal to construct new school-based wellness centers in high need neighborhoods. This victory is particularly significant for the Boyle Heights community where parents, youth, educators and organizations have been organizing since 2013 to expand access to physical and mental health services for youth and families to address health disparities in their community.
“I welcome the Wellness Center at Mendez High School with open arms so we can continue to improve access to health services for youth. I am thrilled that LAUSD and the LAUSD School Board heard our voices and prioritized the needs of our children and families,” said Isabel Martinez, parent of a student at the Mendez High School.
In 2013, the Promesa Boyle Heights Wellness Team, a diverse collaborative of residents, educators, and organizations, began the process of identifying community needs and together with InnerCity struggle launched a campaign to improve health access for youth and families in Boyle Heights. The team surveyed over 1,000 students and parents and analyzed primary data on key health indicators. They found that young males in their community were more likely to report they had not received health services within the past year, did not currently have health coverage, or did not have someone to talk to when a problem arose at school, home or work.
“This is an important victory for our community,” said Deycy Hernandez, Director, Promesa Boyle Heights. “In a time when there is so much uncertainty about health services because of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act and fears amongst our immigrant families in accessing health services, we will soon have the opportunity to provide quality and affordable health services in a setting that families know and trust.”
The wellness center approved for construction today will be located at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School. This school is sandwiched between four major freeways and is near a high concentration of refineries, auto body shops and other documented toxic sites, all of which contribute to disproportionate asthma rates and other health impacts.
Mauro Bautista, Principal at Mendez High School: “As Principal and as a father, I know that a student’s wellbeing is strongly connected to academic success. As a school, we are joyous about today’s decision to invest in wellness for our families. The convenience of having a doctor just a footstep from the classroom increases the likelihood of seeking medical attention when needed, without the disruption of missing a whole day of class time. In the long run this also means that more students will graduate healthy and ready for college and careers.”
Funds for the construction of these new school-based wellness centers come from the Wellness Now Resolution. In 2014, InnerCity Struggle led a campaign that resulted in the Wellness Now Resolution and $50 million investment by LAUSD for school-based wellness centers in high needs schools.
Maria Brenes, Executive Director for InnerCity Struggle noted. “This is a moment when our schools can become a beacon of safety and support for our most vulnerable populations and when the District is listening to the community and their needs, we can assure that those needs are being met with compassion and action. Thank you Superintendent, Board Members, the Department of Health and Human Services, Facilities and the many partners who are invested in the health and wellness of students and families.”
“Parents and youth have dedicated countless hours to ensure that the Wellness Now Resolution is implemented as quickly as possible with strong community input. Their advocacy has ensured that these funds reach the highest need communities like Boyle Heights,” said Cynthia Sanchez, Executive Director for Proyecto Pastoral. “Hearing the news that the wellness center is coming to life is spectacular. We look forward to continuing to work with LAUSD, families, and the schools to make this wellness center a success.”
“It’s exciting to see Mendez become a wellness hub that will strengthen the entire Boyle Heights community,” says Joan Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a non-profit organization that manages Mendez High School and 18 other schools in Boyle Heights, South Los Angeles and Watts. “We applaud our parents, LAUSD, Promesa, Inner City Struggle and all those who worked hard to make this center a reality.”
The community acknowledged and thanked Superintendent King, School Board Member Mónica García, the entire LAUSD School Board, LAUSD staff at the Health & Human Services and Facilities Divisions for working with us to address key health needs in our communities.
“The movement towards 100% graduation includes investing in the health of our school communities,” said LAUSD School Board Member Mónica García. “This is one step forward towards completion of the future health and wellness center at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School. The center will complement school and community leadership at a campus that has reached a 94 percent graduation and a thriving Promesa Boyle Heights collaborative.”
About Promesa Boyle Heights
Promesa Boyle Heights is a passionate collaborative of adult residents, youth, community organizations, schools and public/private institutions working together to realize a shared vision for school and community transformation. This vision is built on the belief that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed from cradle to career, every family deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and that working together, individuals are empowered to transform their community. For more information visit: www.promesaboyleheights.org.
Deycy Hernandez; (310) 500-7634; firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Zavala; (562) 477-7463; email@example.com
Isidro Armenta (Board Member García); firstname.lastname@example.org