It started with a passing comment, followed by a few laughs. Then the students in Step-by-Step, a Riverbank High School youth leadership group, got serious – very serious. Five years after that fateful lunchtime meeting, former and current Riverbank High School students were on hand to witness the realization of their dream: a health center right on campus.
“It started out as a dream to a group of high school youth who had no idea what they were doing but were willing to learn as they went along because of their passion,” says Manuel Castano, who helped get the ball rolling when he was a junior and stayed with the effort even after graduating. “All I know is that the work, dedication and patience has been well worth it. Riverbank will now and forever receive accessible/quality healthcare.”
During the 2006-2007 school year, Step-by-Step members surveyed students on campus to see how they felt about school and themselves. At a lunchtime meeting while reviewing the surveys, one member said, “What if we get a health center to decrease some of these problems?” and then she started laughing.
Nancy, the adult coordinator of Step-by-Step, wasn’t laughing. In fact, she was inspired. She told the students that if they wanted a school-based health center, they could do it.
Step-by-Step members got to work, first informing themselves and then reaching out to parents, school board members and the community through presentations and skits. Golden Valley Health Centers joined the effort as the health care provider and the district provided the space on campus for the portable that houses the health center.
“The partnership between Riverbank Unified School District and Golden Valley Health Centers is the result of a community movement driven by the youth at Riverbank High School. The health center, a simple yet powerful concept, was envisioned by high school students in 2007,” said Ken Geisick, RUSD Superintendent and a board member with the California School Health Centers Association. “The youth and community will now enjoy the power of a health center, but the youth and adults discovered that the long journey to a grand opening was complex and required a spirit of relentlessness.”
Golden Valley Health Centers is a private, non-profit federally qualified health center that has operated in the Central Valley for more than 38 years. Golden Valley has 25 clinical sites and eight dental sites, including three school-based centers.
The Riverbank school-based health center is open to students and surrounding community members. The high school has nearly 800 students and about 65% of them receive free or reduce priced meals. Riverbank is about 25 miles northeast of Modesto. Read the story in the Riverbank News.