Front row, from left to right: Dr. Condessa Curley, Ms. Esmeralda Castaneda, Ms. Thelma McClinton, Ms. Linda Lewis, Mr. John O’Connor and Mr. Tony Wafford
Marian Wright Edelman said it best, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”; and I Choose Life Health and Wellness Center (ICL) is taking that quote seriously. Recently, I Choose Life partnered with John Hope Continuation High School and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to educate youth on the importance of health. “It breaks my heart to know that right here in their very own backyard, the students of John Hope High School have the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health Clinic, which is a state of the arts medical clinic in South Central Los Angeles, and many of these kids have never been here; well that stops now!”, said Tony Wafford, Project Coordinator for the Partnering and Communicating Together to Act Against AIDS (PACT) project. PACT is a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and some of the nation’s leading national organizations representing the populations hardest hit by HIV and AIDS.
ICL reached out to members of the community for support in securing transportation to take twenty students from John Hope Continuation High School to Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health Clinic. Thelma McClinton, Community Service Counselor Area Health Office of West & South Los Angeles Service Planning Area 6 (SPA 6) said that she had been working with the students at the school for some time, when Tony approached her and asked if he could partner with her and bring his Doing It campaign to the school. The partnership took root from there. Every Tuesday, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm (PST), for the past four months, Thelma and Tony has met with the students at the school to both teach the kids about HIV and STIs, as well as to learn from the students, the best ways to deliver messaging to young people about HIV and STIs.
These young people are currently engaged in a “friendly” competition with each other on social media; developing HIV/STD messages around the “Doing It” campaign. Throughout the competition, ICL will tally the most Facebook likes, tweets/retweets, shares, forwards, etc., of each individual participant, and from there, determine which messages are most effective among youth. “Its projects like the Doing It campaign that helps to bring education to these young people around issues of health in ways that they may never hear the messages from just a billboard or a TV ad.”, said Ms. Tipwan McGee, Principal of John Hope Continuation High School. Condessa M. Curley, MD, the Area Medical Director for SPA 5 & 6, spoke with the students on issues of health and gave them a tour of the clinic. She told the kids that one of the things that she was most excited about, was that the clinic will be opening the Teen Life Center in the fall of 2016. Once a week, the clinic will open its doors and partition off safe spaces for teens to get tested for HIV and STDs and all other health issues impacting young people. Also during their visit to the clinic, the kids where educated on the importance of good nutrition by Deanna Bressler-Montgomery, Supervising Public Health Nurse, as well as Sandra Rogers, Deputy Health Officer, Supervising Public Health Investigator (PHI) who shared the challenges she faces in both interviewing patients before they test as well as going out into the community and encouraging those who tested positive for HIV or STDs, to seek treatment and care and/or to continue their in care.
At the conclusion of tour, the students were very excited, eager to share their experience with their peers and also very committed to return with their parents to take full advantage of what the clinic had to offer; as well as looking forward to the opening of the Teen Life Center.
Mary McLeod Bethune said, “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” That’s what I Choose Life has committed to through the Doing It campaign, how about you?