In many ways Samantha Rumley’s concerns are those of typical teenagers: “What should I wear? How do I look? What’s happening this weekend?” In other ways, her concerns are more befitting of an adult: “What will we have for dinner? How can I find a job? Why do I keep getting headaches?”
“I just felt bad a lot of the time,” shared Samantha. “There were a lot of days last year when I didn’t come to school or days when I had to leave early.”
Samantha is a 15-year old sophomore at Willamina High School, a small rural school of 300 students. The town of Willamina has historically depended on the local lumber mill for its economy, but now suffers from high unemployment and social problems linked to poverty. During the fall of 2012, Virginia Garcia opened a School-Based Health Center (SBHC) on the school’s campus.
“I had been to the school nurse before,” said Samantha, “but she couldn’t figure anything out. She took my temperature and asked questions about my sexual activity. It made me feel judged. The only thing she did was give me Tylenol and send me back to class. So I was not sure about the new health center. But when I walked in, everyone was really friendly. The doctor gave me a very thorough exam. We talked about my overall health, my diet and natural remedies for colds. We talked about safe sex and birth control. We talked about a lot of stuff.”
Janet Mathews, a nurse practitioner at the SBHC, sees Samantha regularly. “Samantha is a bright, sensitive girl who is surrounded by socio- economic stressors. We know that poverty aligns with disease. Some of Samantha’s symptoms are brought on by stress. I suggest ways for her to manage stress, such as regular sleep and diet. School is a big part of her support structure, so having the school-based health center right here is very important. With many teenagers if you’re not within five minutes or five feet, you’re not on their minds. We want this to be their place.”
“When I told my mother that Virginia Garcia had opened a health center at my school, her face lit up. She had been to Virginia Garcia in McMinnville and had a great experience. The best part about having the health center at my school is building relationships. I feel like they know the look on my face and can tell what’s going on. They listen and they treat me with respect.”