Finding your “Gift”

Categories: Adolescent health care, SBHCs, Teen pregnancy prevention

I grew up living a couple blocks away from San Fernando High School, an area with high pregnancy rates and low graduation rates. Leaving the house to go out with my friends, my Mom would say with passion, “Please don’t be a statistic, Byanka!” She was referring to the high rates of teen pregnancy during the 1990s and 2000s. As a result of these rates and community concerns, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported the creation of school-based health centers (SBHCs) at San Fernando High School, Jordan High School, and Los Angeles High.

During one of our weekly internship meetings this summer, we had the pleasure of hearing guest speaker, Jan Marquard, share the story of how San Fernando High School’s SBHC came to be, and the challenges faced when the doors first opened in 1987. Hearing that history helped me comprehend that teen pregnancy has been a public health issue for many decades. Halfway through her presentation, I realized two key things: even though I have been a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Health Educator, there was a missing gap in my knowledge around the grassroots efforts in SBHCs. Furthermore, having Jan explain and demonstrate how some members of the community initially opposed San Fernando’s SBHC, I saw that the challenges presented by Jan are not easily managed by anyone and everyone; it takes a gifted group of individuals to work at SBHCs. Those that work at SBHCs, are not recognized for their work in silos but rather in collaboration with the student population, the school, administration, parents, the community and many external organizations to build on the resources on school campuses.

As I approach the end of my academic internship at The L.A. Trust, I tie in Jan’s story to what I’ve seen from the staff at The L.A. Trust, all of whom possess the necessary skills and qualities to work with SBHCs, and all who have that ‘gift.’  Then I take a deeper look at myself and the qualities which I have brought not only to this internship, but to my work as a Health Educator at Northeast Valley Health Corporation, and realize that I also have that “gift.” I have been blessed to work with adolescents for over 10 years. I have built a relationship with students as well as with their parents, the school, and the community. As a former parent told me a couple of days ago, “You have a special gift!  Not just anyone can work with teenagers, nonetheless educate them and grab their attention like you do! Please make sure that you continue spreading your “gift” because there are very few that possess it!” Hearing this statement just reassured me that I should continue working with the adolescent population because I could make a genuine change within my community. As Pablo Picasso stated “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” I have been blessed to find my “gift.”

What is your “gift” and how can you use it to make a change in your community?

Byanka Melgar headshotByanka V. Melgar will be completing her MPH this Fall 2016 from Cal State Northridge.  As a Health Educator in teen pregnancy prevention, obesity prevention & substance use awareness, she realized that she can help and increase knowledge by pursing a graduate degree in Public Health.  As an intern with The L.A. Trust, she is supporting the Healthy Eating Active Living program.


Student Health = Student Success