Grant Union High School Principal Darris Hinson unveils new medical center on campus. (Photo by: Rusell Stiger Jr.)

By Srishti Prabha | OBSERVER Staff Writer

LaDeija Luckey envisioned a very different senior year when she graduated from Grant Union High School at the height of the pandemic. Confined to a small space with her entire family, and living at a shelter, tested her mental fortitude.  

“It was the most probably depressing time of my life,” she said. 

At an event this past Wednesday at Grant High, she came out to amplify the need for school-based clinics, which she says she would have benefited from. For her, eventually having safe haven and proper resources from the Neighborhood Wellness Foundation helped her succeed. 

LaDeija Luckey champions for health-based resources at the school. (Photo by: Russell Stiger Jr.)

“They had a huge impact on me and my family’s lives,” Luckey said. “They actually not only understand where you come from, but understand and still support the youth.”  

Grant Union High debuted two school-based health clinics last week with the goal to serve the mental- and physical-health needs of students. And Del Paso Heights residents of all ages showed up at Grant in support of the new on-site clinics, which are named Pacers Take Space.

School-based health clinics have been linked to positive life outcomes for students with limited parent availability, transportation barriers and adverse childhood experience, according to the National Institute of Health. At a school like Grant, 88% of students are foster youth, English learners or qualify for a free or reduced lunch. This is a key reason why community-health experts say access to health care should be a priority. 

With the two new school-based clinics on campus, Del Paso Heights residents look forward to a better environment for the next generation of students.

The efforts, which began in 2017, were brought to fruition as a collaboration between the school, community organizations — Neighborhood Wellness Foundation and Twin Rivers Unified — and health care partners, Sacramento Native American Health Center and Sutter Health

Principal Darris Hinson highlighted the pernicious stressors that the high school and its surrounding region have endured for almost a century. 

“When you look at the landscape of where Grant High School is, you can go 10 miles in any direction and you’re not going to come across a hospital, a health and fitness center [and] a major grocery store chain with fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said. “We have to travel to other people’s community.” 

Dr. Tyree Davie on his vision for the health clinics at Grant Union High School. (Photo by: Russell Stiger Jr.)

Grant graduate and Sacramento-based doctor Tyree Davie says the idea to build a health clinic on the campus came after watching Paper Tigers, a documentary film that initiated research on adverse childhood experiences.

“It talked about how high school students had these things that went on in their life, outside of school or at school and how those things impacted their mental health, their school performance, and how when they got a school-based health clinic, all those things changed,” he said. “And when I seen that, I said, ‘Oh, we need that here, 95838 needs that.’”

Between 2017 and 2018, UC Davis Medical School student Davie worked with his peers to deliver a student needs assessment to Grant students. The report’s findings indicated that over 50% of respondents felt that school-based health clinics would improve the physical and mental health of the students on campus, and a third of students felt that such a space would improve attendance. 

One of the clinics on Grant Union High’s campus. (Photo by: Twin Rivers Unified School District)

Davie represents a return back to investment into the Del Paso Heights community. From leading community-health surveys at football games to having conversations with the district superintendent, Davie is just one of many 95838 residents committed to the future of youth in North Sacramento. 

Hinson, also an alum, said that, as someone who has witnessed for years what the Del Paso Heights community has confronted, the need for holistic health for students is critical to disrupt cycles of intergenerational trauma. 

Dr. Gina Warren, co-founder of the Neighborhood Wellness Foundation, recalled her time at Grant High, singling out the elders of the Del Paso Heights community who had shown up for her when she was young:

“Del Paso Junior High School was where I spent some of my greatest childhood experiences. Our cooks cooked in the kitchen and our adults set a standard of excellence. And I remember very vividly sitting in the library on Saturdays with Leslie, which is Tyree’s grandmother, and Mama Marks, who fed so many of us.” 

Dr. Gina Warren on the significance of school-based clinics. (Photo by: Russell Stiger Jr.)

The district has since faced drug addiction, violence, and mass incarceration, reminded Warren. “We all had challenges that we didn’t talk about, but our village buffered our pain that blossomed into pride, resilience and determination,” she said.

Warren, Davie, Hinson exemplify vested interest by community and for the community. 

“We want to be that innovative gap between best practices and policy change to help expand the support system with authentic, excellent partners and bring a lens of childhood adversity that undermines learning,” explained Warren. “Lat’s unveil the greatness that exists within our community.”

In partnership, Sutter Health invested $1.62 million in the two clinics that are set to open this summer.

Srishti Prabha is a Report For America corps member and Education Reporter in collaboration with The Sacramento Observer and CapRadio. Their focus is on K-12 education in Black communities.