KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The students at North Central High School commute to school from 6 different zip codes. Many of their parents work shift work and can’t leave in the middle of the day to take their kid to the doctor. It’s been a problem there for years. But now administrators have a solution to the problem that’s not only free – but it’s right down the hall.
MariElizabeth Sowell will tell you firsthand: she’s spent a lot of time at the school-based health center inside North Central High School. Whether it’s a sports physical for her cheerleading activities, a checkup when she has a sniffle, or just to talk and pray – it’s a resource she uses often. That’s especially true because her primary care physician is all the way in Camden, more than 14 miles away. And with both her parents working full-time jobs, if she needed to get there during the school day it would be incredibly difficult.
"Most of the time, the hours at the doctor's office are during the day and my parents can't get off,” MariElizabeth said.
At the end of it all - she'd miss a half or full day of school. It's a problem many Kershaw County students face and district officials say they've found a solution in the school-based health care center they instituted at North Central High School during the 2015-2016 school year. The clinic also serves North Central Middle School just down the road.
"One of our goals is to keep them in school as much as possible so they don't lose class time,” said the nurse practitioner on staff. "We operate like a minute clinic, so the goal is to treat them and get them back to class."
Administrators said since it opened in the school, it's helped increase attendance and graduation rates. MariElizabeth said if she needs to go to the clinic, most of the time she only has to miss half a class.
But one of the best parts, school officials said, is that the program addresses far more than a growing teen's immune system. Wellness coaches on staff make sure that kids battling mental health issues or behavioral problems get the help they need.
"Now kids have an extra resource,” said North Central High’s principal, David Branham. “It’s another tool in the toolbox that we can call on with the wellness coaches they can go talk to."
It's a tool MariElizabeth says she's seen making a positive impact among her peers.
"You can be smiling and have inner pain and talk to somebody here about it,” she said. “That’s why this is amazing.”
To read more about the program or find out how to sign up your child, go to https://www.kcsdschools.net/domain/1967.