Metta World Peace spoke to an auditorium full of Washington Preparatory High School students about school, goals and mental health.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also addressed Washington Preparatory High School flanked by a special panel including (Left to Right): L.A. Laker, Metta World Peace, Pia V. Escudero, director for School Mental Health Services, Dr. Marvin J. Southard D.S.W., director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Todd Ullah, director of Secondary Science for LAUSD.
L.A. Laker and officials support health initiative at Washington Prep High School
On Thursday, April 4, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) with Los Angeles Laker, Metta World Peace (MWP), spoke to Washington Preparatory High School (WPHS) about mental health awareness. In conjunction with the event, LAUSD and LACDMH also held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Washington Prep Wellness Center, which will service the students as well as the community.
Outside of being a defensive player for the Los Angeles Lakers, MWP, formerly Ron Artest, takes time to advocate for mental health programs. He’s lending his support to a recent legislation by Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), which is a grant program that would help implement mental health professionals into local school districts.
His personal battle with mental illness has given him a podium to speak to others, namely youth. MWP spoke to an auditorium of WPHS students about the importance of education and mental well-being. He credits early prevention and awareness as the reason for his success and overcoming personal obstacles.
“It’s very important to let [youth] know that they have support out there,” said World Peace. “A lot of people don’t understand that they have support [and] don’t know where to get support.
“It’s significant for the kids to understand that it’s okay if you need help, it’s okay if you need a boost.”
“An event like this is crucial because Metta World Peace has an obvious connection with these kids,” said Marvin J. Southard, D.S.W., director of Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
“It’s crucial when a role model is willing to speak to the challenges that they faced and the challenges they overcame in order to get to where they are now.”
Metta World Peace calls out Washington Prep. students to name top 10 inspirational leaders in their lives.
Coinciding with the mental health awareness panel with MWP was the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Washington Prep Wellness Center (WPWC). Located on the school campus, the center is open to the community and services WPHS. Provided by St. John’s Well Child & Family Center (SJWCFC) and LAUSD School Mental Health, patients will be able to receive care for low-cost or free. They also accept Medi-Cal and most other insurance plans.
LAUSD, the Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health (LA Trust) and various community clinic providers began proposals in 2009 for wellness centers in middle and high school districts. As a result, $28 million went into development of wellness centers with 14 designated sites to be completed in 2014.
“St. Johns has a real strong belief in the advocacy and the importance of school-based health centers,” said Jim Mangia, MPH, president and CEO of SJWCFC. “We believe that it improves student performance as well as boost community health outcomes.
Mangia continued, “We built this clinic for the very purpose of serving the students on the campus as well as their families and the community at large.
“We’re going to see some real significant health improvements in… South Los Angeles.”
The Wellness Center features a fully-loaded clinic complete with counseling offices, medical laboratory, dental room and pharmaceutical area.
The clinic will be offering medical service, primary and preventive, dental and mental healthcare. Marguerite LaMotte, District 1 LAUSD and former principal of WPHS, served as the mistress of ceremonies for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She is excited to see the clinic come to one of the many deserved communities.
“The kids have to be well,” said LaMotte. “It’s significant because it brings wellness into our community and just emphasizes the importance of being well for an education.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas spoke to students at the mental awareness panel and attendants at the ribbon-cutting ceremony about the importance of health and what the center means for WPHs and the community. He attached the message to the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the importance of community and brotherhood.
“One of the highlights of my career on the board of supervisors is that of funding these projects,” said Ridley-Thomas. “It’s taken millions of dollars but we are proud to put our resources into projects like this—this is the real deal.
“This is going to help a lot of youngsters on this campus.”
The Washington Prep Wellness Center will open Friday, April 26. The center will be open Tuesday and Thursday, from 8:30am-5:00pm. It is located at 1555 West 110th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90047. Fore more information, please visit www.wellchild.org
photos By Brian W. Carter