August 2, 2011

August 2nd, 2011…Youth as Health Care Advocates

Can young people be advocates for their own health care? Can they be spokespeople for the health care needs of their peers?

What a tough question. I think back to when I was in high school and I knew little to nothing about accessing health care or the health care system itself. I’m very thankful that I never had to worry about either of these issues as well.

So when we live in a society that makes it hard for, possibly even discourages, young people to be involved in their receiving appropriate health care, how do we get them to be advocates.


Because it’s not enough to put petitions in their hands, get them fired up and send them in to talk to Legislators. They need to understand the relationship between health care to the world around them.

The relationship between health care and the people who are making the decisions.

The relationship between health care and the school community, because we know that no matter how great the school or teacher are, if student isn’t healthy, safe and in their seat, they just aren’t going to learn.

Most importantly, the relationship between health care and the people who are not receiving it.

Wake County: # Estimate of Uninsured Adolescents 0 - 18

Year County Peer Average State
2007 31,071 21,242 306,000
2009 27,701 18,601 282,000

They have to see the disparity for what it is. A system that creates unequal opportunity for access to health care. They have to understand the barriers that prevent people from accessing the basic levels of care that they need and deserve.

This is how we begin to start moving social norms, shifting communal perceptions to be more inclusive of the underserved and underrepresented.

And they have to enjoy what they do…

August 1, 2011

Entry 7: Wake UP and Get It Together!

Whew! What is it they say about hindsight? Let me just get this out of the way first, maintaining a blog is TOUGH! Kudos to Gluten Hates Me…a new appreciation has been formed!

Soooo…let’s catch up on the past SEVEN MONTHSSmile How have you been? How’s work? Are you still going to the same gym? Nice!

Here’s what we’ve been up to…

We went to Chicago, to the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care National Convention where we were invited to present a 2.5 hour workshop on the great work we’ve been doing in North Carolina…

Youth in Chicago

Check out our blog post on the workshop here: North Carolina's Youth Advocacy Work Toolkit

We spent some time at the NC General Assembly, for Chronic Disease Legislative Advocacy Day…


We spent time lobbying with our state legislators for continued and increased funding for school-based health centers across the state. It was a tough crowd, but we got several legislators to sign our Petition T-Shirts!

Senator Dan Blue Signing

Senator Josh Stein

And most importantly, last week we reached a HUGE milestone. We convened the first Wake School-Based Health Center Task Force, made up of local leaders from:

WakeMed Health & Hospitals, WakeMed Foundation, Rex-UNC Health Care, Wake Health Services, Inc. (Federally Qualified Health Center), Wake County Board of Education, Wake Health and Human Services, Wake County Public School System Senior Staff, UNC Department of Pediatrics, North Carolina School Community Health Alliance, NC Division of Public Health School Health Center Program, Poe Center for Health Education, a local school nurse supervisor and school nurse, and of course, our Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) Access to Care Youth Team!!!!


Needless to say, we’ve been busy! Growing a school-based health center through a true youth-driven, grassroots advocacy, process takes time and energy, but we are seeing success! More to come soon (I promise!)

November 14, 2010

Entry 6: Friends & Small Victories

I wish I could make songs play when you guys opened up each entry. For this one, I would have played “I Get By With A Little Help By My Friends” by the Beatles, though I like the Joe Cocker version a lot.

It’s obvious that getting this school-based health center (SBHC) established is not going to happen by our work alone. We need friends   partners   advocates. We need community leaders…we need the community. What makes a SBHC so unique and important as a means for delivering adolescent health services is that it is built around the needs of each specific community. One of our partners, and good friends says it best… “When you’ve seen one school-based health center, well, you’ve seen one school-based health center”.

Some have dentist offices, some don’t. Some have child nurse practitioners, some have family nurse practitioners. Some have psychiatrist, many have a nutritionist. But whatever staff and services are provided, are provided for a reason…that’s what the community needs.


One reason why it’s important to have friends in this process is because they can help us figure out what the primary needs of the community are. They can share historical data. They can share experience. But really why we want to bring these friends to the table is so that they can share in the ownership of this SBHC and the impact that it’s going to have on the community.

We have met with some really outstanding people at the Health Dept. in Wake County. People who are willing to help us on our journey. People who will have a stake in our projects success. People who will make a difference in the health of thousands of teenagers in our community.

This has led us to some really exciting places lately! Interestingly enough, once every 4 years, Wake County releases data compiled from a HUGE county-wide needs assessment. To disseminate this information, the county hosts multiple “community forums”. During these forums people facilitate discussions about what the data says and develop strategies and priorities for the next four years.


What is KEY about all of this is knowing that the priorities that come out of these forums go directly to the County Commissioners as recommendations for community health policies for the next four years. Meaning, if we can get people talking about this SBHC during these meetings, and understand that 9 out of 10 of the adolescent health issues that they are talking about can be positively impacted by establishing this center, the county commissioners will see that this is what the community needs, and more importantly, what the community WANTS.

The first forum was slightly productive and held in the heart of downtown Raleigh. We were able to get a feel for what the data said and what the discussions were like.

For the second forum, we were prepared and went in with a mission…Get People Talking About School-Based Health Centers.


Also, we didn’t register for this one, so it REALLY seemed like we were going in as rogue advocates!!! What do you mean my name tag isn’t legit???

At this meeting we were able to ask questions to the larger group about a center and, even more importantly, do some myth-busting:

Me: Have people out in this part of the county thought or talked about the impact that a school-based health center might have?

Facilitator: Welllll, yes, but there is a lot of fear around having contraceptives that close to students and on school-campus?

Me: But isn’t it true that it is a NC State Law that you cannot hand out contraceptives on the grounds of a school?

Facilitator: Wellll, yes.

Me: So that is really more of a myth.

Facilitator: Yes, that is a myth.


“Victory is won not in the miles but in the inches” - Louis L'Amour

November 3, 2010

Entry 5: It is not enough to just want it

Little known fact about me, I have spent 4+ years of my professional life (1997 – 2001) making pizzas in a variety of Italian restaurants as well as Dominoes. If you don’t believe me, ask GlutenHatesMe how often I spin random things around the house on my finger…


Anyways…as crazy/hectic/chaotic as it was working in the kitchen of a restaurant, there was something that I really came to appreciate. If you can sit back for a second, you can see flow of how things and people move about the kitchen, a quiet undercurrent of organization that goes into make peoples food.

I’ve come to realize the same thing about community development work, and even more so about this project of establishing a school-based health center in a Wake County high school. I’ve realized that just wanting it to happen, even working with a group of youth who passionately want it to happen, is just the beginning.


It is really exciting to see the pieces of this project, the pieces of the community move and shift into place. There are key people that are necessary to make something like this to happen: a fiscal sponsor, a community advisory council, the school health advisory committee, the local health department, the local hospital, and so on and so on. These are all people who are vital to this process.

Though, not vital because these are people who make the important decisions for community. But because we want this project to be sustained long after we are done with this project. We want a school-based health center to be established, and to stay. These people are not just going to help make this decision for the community, these people are going to help keep the pieces afloat after our project has ended.


Because isn’t that what sustainability is, facilitating growth outside of yourself or your group so that the people who impacted by these types of services can keep it going once you are gone…working yourself out of a job.

This project is turning out to be a great learning experience for me and even more so, I love watching the way this kitchen (community) flows. Pieces are coming together slowly, but that is ok. If there is anything that I can say about this process is that it extremely important to do the work, take the time, plan effectively, bring people in in the early stages, because this is going to make sure that things will be around long after you are gone.


October 22, 2010

Entry 4: Yikes 3 Weeks!!!

I wish that I could say that I wasn’t forewarned about what it takes to keep a blog up and going, but I am married to an active (gluten free) food blogger aka Gluten Hates Me.

However, I feel now, more than ever that it is important to tell the story of what we are doing in Wake County…trying to get a school-based health center established.

We’ve been busy…


For the past few months we’ve been in a planning phase, trying to think through what the next two and a half years are going to look like…we are advocates, we have advocated, but never like this. As surprising as it may seem, getting the decision makers to buy-in to the idea of establishing a health center on the grounds of a school is fairly controversial. Some people think that the main thing that school health centers do is hand out condoms and sign teenagers up for abortions.

Sometimes I feel like what we do as advocates is just talking to people about what is actually going on.


Truth #1: No way do school health centers administer and type of surgical procedure, such as an abortion, on the grounds of a school.

Truth #2: It is actually a North Carolina state law that no one can hand out contraceptives on the grounds of a school within the North Carolina public school system.

But let’s be honest, do school health centers impact the reproductive health of the students that attend that school…ABSOLUTELY. But why is that a bad thing???

What these people don’t realize is that the issues that they spend so much time arguing about actually comprise about 10% of what a school health center actually does.

But let’s get back to our team and what we’ve been doing!


We recruited three new youth to our youth team of five (pictures pending). We’ve also been making lists of who our strategic partners are going to be. We are moving close to the end of our “planning phase” into our “getting down to business phase”! This is a fun phase. We made a video, with some rough editing by yours truly.

Note: the video stops around 1:50, so you can stop watching after that :)

What else is on the radar???

Well, we just recently started a “Cause” on Facebook…be sure to check us out. We are recruiting people from across the country to get their hands dirty with our project…

Establish a School-Based Health Center in Wake County!

Be sure to click above and like the cause. We are also getting out and trying to have some face to face meetings with some people and organizations who we think are going to be able to help us out…

* Local Community Health Clinics

* Wake County School Board Members

* PTA Members

* Parents

* Other Youth Serving Organizations

And I am learning that one of the most important people that we can bring on a medical provider who can help us convene all of these people together, in one place, to rally around this cause. The medical provider is key, because once we begin to work our way into the school system, they will be able to support medical staffing to be able to provide health care services to the students that need it.

Hey, did you know that almost 11,000 students in Wake County are uninsured? Most likely, those youth also don’t have a medical home and rarely access the services they need.

Do you know how many young people are uninsured in your community?

September 27, 2010

Entry 3: Married to Success

What was I thinking…starting a blog, KNOWING full well how important it is to stay on top of this. At least I have good excuse for being out for so long…


That’s right! Marlow (a.k.a. GlutenHatesMe ) and I tied the knot! Great friends, great family, great food, and oh yeah…

…we played KanJam!!!!

KanJam Wedding

KanJam is AWESOME!!! It’s like Cornhole or Horseshoes, except you play it with frisbees and a Kan (sp?). We are so thankful for the folks at KanJam to donate the sets that we had at the wedding because they definitely stole the show!

Phew…what a crazy week it was, but man was it worth it. The wedding was beautiful, relaxed, and a complete success!

Marlow stole most of the good photos, so I will spare you the repeats, but check it out for more on the wedding and honeymoon (though there is some that is pending.

But this all got me thinking about success and what it means. We are all so married to the idea of “success” in our lives, but what does it mean. The only definite thing that I can conclude about success is that it is all so relative…in work and at home.

What does success mean as an advocate?

Maybe it means teaching a young person all of the different parts of the body that tobacco actually does effect


Or working with a team of young people to turn a blank page…


…into a portrait of their community.


Sometimes I feel like success is as simple as getting everyone in one place at the same time (even if you have to jump to get there).


I like to think that my success as an advocate, and my teams success, is clear…when a School-Based Health Center is established on the grounds of a school. But there is so much more…more about learning and growing internally as an individual and a team.

If you care so much about something, how do you define success?????

September 14, 2010

Entry 2: 2+2 = Change

I remember when I was introduced to community-based work. It was during my Pre-Service Orientation for being an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America). This was a week long training on community organizing, activism, and sustainability.


It was like I finally woke up and realized that what I wanted to do was bring people together to create community change.

Six years later, I am still awake and working for two non-profits that advocate for Youth Empowerment and School-Based Health Care.

Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) is an organization that hires young people, as staff, trains them and them provides them with opportunities to get out in the community and use their voice!

full logo color (Standard)

The North Carolina School Community Health Alliance is the statewide resource organization for school-based and school-linked health centers.


I think it is important to remember how we got to where we are. I feel that it helps me to recognize the lenses that I see the world through.

1 day move 022

And if I understand how I see the world, maybe I can understand how the world sees me.

Parrish (Big Wind Blows) 

Then maybe, a few people working together to make their community a better place, regardless of age, race, or creed…

Mellow Mushroom

…could have a really big effect.



September 13, 2010

Entry 1: Three Years Starts…Now!

Hey, my name is Parrish! I’m 28, I live in Durham, NC, I am getting married this weekend to my best friend (a.k.a. glutenhatesme), and we have a dog…his name is Max.



I love to cook…which is mostly an excuse for loving to eat,  I have played soccer for about 20 years, I graduated from St. Andrews Presbyterian College (with about 50 other people) in 2003, and I love a good "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me".

More importantly,  I’m an advocate…and I’m just getting started down a road to change the face of my community.

I’m advocating for school-based health centers (SBHCs).

Rally Photo 

Yes, that’s correct, a doctors office on the grounds of a middle or high school to treat students. I believe that all youth should have access to affordable, effective prevention and treatment services no matter what. I also believe that by putting these services inside a school, where youth spend the majority of their time, is the best way to do this. A simple concept really.

What…you were expecting civil rights, segregation issues, maybe something politically charged right?!?!

Hopefully you were, because simple concept does not equal simple project.

We have 3 three years and I’m hoping to tell the story…and maybe build some enthusiasm while doing it.

So let me start this, Day 1, by asking you a question…what do you advocate for?