School Nurses and School-Based Health Centers: A Conversation with Paula Fields

March 23, 2018

Paula and her granddaughter at a concert, enjoying sugar-free icy slushes

First, tell us about yourself!

I am a nurse, a mom, a MiMi of a Type 1 diabetic grandchild, and a fierce advocate for children and school-based health care! I’ve worked to establish and grow school-based health centers for over 20 years in my home state of West Virginia.

It’s easy to confuse the roles of school nurses and school-based health centers (SBHCs), though we know that both are critical parts to improve student health outcomes. Can you shed some light on the differences between school nurses and school-based health centers?

To answer that question, I first have to smile. You see, when I first started my life’s work of establishing and growing SBHCs many years ago, even I didn’t understand the role of school nurses and vice versa! We tried to figure out each other’s respective roles as we worked together—all while  keeping the students as our focus. What we learned? The importance of the three “C’s”: cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Since that time I’ve had the pleasure of interacting both personally and professionally with a host of school nurses. As I’ve worked with school nurses more and more, I’ve come to add a few other words to the three “C’s”: appreciation, courtesy, and respect.

First things first: school nurses are responsible for managing the daily health needs of ALL students. Terms such as Free Appropriate Public Education, IEPs, 504s, care plans, immunization compliance, and health promotion come to mind. As I mentioned, I have a granddaughter with Type I diabetes and it’s challenging for me to care for her, even with my nursing background. She has an insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor, and more alarms and needed interventions than I could ever have imagined. She’s the only child I provide care for—and believe me, it’s hard! If it’s so difficult to provide care to only one little girl, you can imagine the difficulty and scope of the work that school nurses do by serving ALL students… including those with health conditions like my granddaughter. For students needing medical care, school nurses can refer them to a school-based health center.

School-based health centers serve over 3,000 schools across the nation. Located in or on school grounds, SBHCs provide primary health care among other things. SBHC providers differ from school nurses in that they can diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and may also provide oral, behavioral, and vision care. SBHCs work cooperatively with the school, school nurses, and parents. They also work with—but don’t replace—a student’s primary care provider.

As working parents, we were fortunate that our children attended a middle and high school with an SBHC. The SBHC worked with us and our children’s pediatrician to ensure our children received the care they needed.

One time, I remember I was working in another state (championing SBHCs) and their dad was working in an underground coal mine. I received a call. “Mom, I have pink eye.” I responded, “Ok, what can I do for you? I’m in another state, Dad can’t leave work, and your pediatrication is an hour away.” My child responded, “I’ll go to the SBHC!”

I could not help but feel proud. You see, this is a prime example of how having access to services at school teaches students how to navigate the health care system, take ownership of their well-being, and become independent. My child visited the SBHC and was diagnosed with conjunctivitis. But the care didn’t even stop here! The SBHC contacted his pediatrician and  called in a prescription to the pharmacy. The prescription needed to be paid for and picked up, but neither my husband nor I could leave work. And here’s the incredible part: the SBHC and school nurse worked together, paid for, and picked up the prescription. Ultimately, my child saw a provider, was prescribed medication, and received treatment before either of us as parents could have secured care. I’m telling you—our children win when we work together!

It sounds like both school nurses and school-based health centers have the same goal in mind: making sure students are healthy and ready to learn. What does having a school-based health center in addition to a school nurse make possible?

The bottom line is that students benefit when SBHCs and school nurses work together. This collaboration enhances continuity of care through information sharing and even saves the school dollars as students progress toward graduation. Working together yields multiple benefits: improving access to care, reducing student absences, increasing classroom seat time, decreasing parent/guardian missed work time for visits, and improving students’ health and academic outcomes, to name a few.

Research shows that school nurses and SBHCs lead to improvements in education and health outcomes for our nation’s children, and it’s important to know that one does not replace the other.

I wholeheartedly believe that healthy students are better learners, that it takes a village, and we’re stronger together.


2018 Awareness Month Wrap-Up

March 14, 2018
The 2018 National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month was one for the record books.

Every February, the school-based health care field recognizes our accomplishments and raises awareness about how school-based health centers (SBHCs) are revolutionizing the way children and adolescents access health care services. This year, we tapped into a topic that is front-of-mind for many Americans. In light of the increasing need for mental health services for children and youth in the wake of our nation’s opioid crisis, the school-based health care field considered this question: How are SBHCs uniquely suited to provide care to the kids and teens whose lives are most affected by the opioid epidemic?

Your response to our 2018 awareness month was astounding, and we are humbled by the outpouring of activity during February. You facilitated official proclamations in your state legislature for the commemoration, hosted youth-led advocacy campaigns, shared your stories via social media and newsletters, and made your school-based health center staff feel remarkably special.

Awareness Month wouldn’t have been complete without our annual Twitter chat, “Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies: SBHCs and Child/Adolescent Health.” Along with school-based health care advocates from across the country, we took Twitter by storm on Tuesday, February 20! More than 200 people participated in the #SBHCmonth18 chat, garnering 4.6 million impressions and reaching 1.1 million Twitter accounts. Participants included everyone from pediatricians and mental health providers to state health departments and hospital systems. Check out the #SBHCmonth18 executive summary here.

On Wednesday, February 28, the School-Based Health Alliance held two congressional briefings in honor of National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. Child health experts from around the country shared how school-based health centers (SBHCs) are meeting the increased mental health needs of the lesser known victims of this epidemic – children who are affected by their parents’ or families’ struggles with addiction. And since the briefings, we’ve had several congressional offices reach out to the Alliance to learn more about the SBHC model and the Hallways to Health Act (S. 356/H.R. 1027), as well as our other legislative priorities. Even better? Members of Congress are now championing one of our biggest legislative priorities: the SBHC Authorization!

In February, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the availability of up to $10 million in funding for school health center capital investments. Talk about good timing!


The Maryland Assembly on School-Based Health Care held a raffle on Twitter to encourage its members to celebrate awareness month. The Howard County Health Department even received a Certificate of Recognition from their county government to officially honor February as National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month!


Our Michigan affiliate received a Governor’s Proclamation announcing School-Based Health Care Awareness Month, and their Capitol Rotunda even had an exhibit with story boards from their students expressing their love for their SBHCs. The Michigan School-Based Health Alliance gathered extraordinary stories from their young people. We encourage you to read about the power of SBHCs through the eyes of students on their website.

New Mexico

Awareness month was in full swing this year in New Mexico. The New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care (NMASBHC) joined their Federally Qualified Health Center partners for Primary Care Day on February 7. On that day, NMASBHC educated their legislators about the critical health care SBHCs provide. The SBHC at Capital High in New Mexico also gave Senator Stefanics a tour of their SBHC—a great way to finish up National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month.

New York

On February 6, the New York School-Based Health Alliance and over 400 participants from across the state took over Albany to advocate for SBHC funding. Our national Youth Advisory Council member Fathima Lye outlined her experience on our blog. How did SBHCs in NY celebrate awareness month in their centers?


  • Charlotte SBHC created a Valentine’s-themed newsletter with information about the team and services provided for the school staff. SBHC staff even included valentines—each teacher received a newsletter and valentine in their mailbox.
  • Edison Tech celebrated awareness month by hosting a school-wide STD screening program in collaboration with their local county department of health. During STD testing week, students wrote on pink slips of paper about why they love their SBHC.  The students’ responses were entered into a drawing for prizes.  As a result, the Edison Tech SBHC got to see all the reasons why their students love them, which they proudly displayed throughout the school! 
  • School #33’s newsletter focused on awareness month, and they even decorated the bulletin board outside the Health Center to celebrate and describe who they are and what they do.
  • School #9 created anti-stress kits for the entire school staff to remind them that taking care of ourselves is just as important as caring for the students! 97% of School #9’s students are enrolled in the SBHC. SBHC staff continue to reach out to families that are new to the school-many displaced from Puerto Rico, to enroll them and work with the case manager for insurance and referrals to primary care offices in the community.
  • Freddie Thomas SBHC took the opportunity to promote healthy tips for its students. They used a bulletin board to highlight simple healthy lifestyle ideas anyone can adopt!

The Oregon School-Based Health Alliance gathered student advocates on February 6 to storm their state capitol for their 11th annual Advocacy Day.

The students shared their heartfelt SBHC stories with their legislators to promote the importance of youth voice in access to health services and advocate for the health needs of their communities. On February 1, 2018, Oregon Governor Kate Brown officially proclaimed February as School-Based Health Care Awareness Month.


South Carolina

In addition to using the Bradshaw Institute’s social media platform to post about school-based health care throughout February, staff from the hospital visited the middle school SBHCs they sponsor. At each school, students signed a huge thank you banner for their SBHC providers that they hung inside the health room.

Again, thanks to all of you for helping us redefine health for kids and teens. We can’t wait to see what happens during 2019 Awareness Month!

Alliance Hosts Congressional Briefings During Awareness Month

March 12, 2018

On Wednesday, February 28, the School-Based Health Alliance held two congressional briefings in honor of National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. Child health experts from around the country shared how school-based health centers (SBHCs) are meeting the increased mental health needs of the lesser known victims of this epidemic – children who are affected by their parents’ or families’ struggles with addiction. There aren’t enough mental health providers available for these young people and their need is growing. We know that SBHCs are part of a comprehensive community response and provide the mental health care that children deserve.

Our speakers explored the ways in which SBHCs are using technology, such as telehealth, to expand services to those who would otherwise go without and to add critical capacity to more isolated and rural communities. Not only were the panelists highly knowledgeable, but audience attendance and engagement were tremendous as well.

We’d like to give a big thank you to each of our panelists, Kenneth Coleman, PhD, LPC, NCC, Chris Kjolhede, MD, MPH, FAAP, and Winston Wong, MD, MS. We’d be remiss without also thanking the dedicated advocates in the school-based health care field. We thank them for taking the time to reach out to their Members of Congress to urge them to attend our briefing(s) and learn more about school-based health centers and the critical work that their staff do by providing access to behavioral/mental health services for children and youth impacted by the opioid epidemic.

As proof of just how successful and important congressional briefings can be, we were honored to have Congressman Faso (R-NY) not only make opening remarks during our House briefing, but stay for a better part of the event as well as sign onto our appropriations letter and Hallways to Health Act! Please see his press release for more information.

And, since the briefings, we’ve had several other congressional offices reach out to the Alliance to learn more about the SBHC model and the Hallways to Health Act (S. 356/H.R. 1027), as well as our other legislative priorities. Members of Congress are now championing one of our biggest legislative priorities: the SBHC Authorization. For a quick history, the SBHC Authorization was passed in the Affordable Care Act but went unfunded. The Authorization is one of the provisions in the Hallways to Health bill, and as now, we have Congressman Gomez (D-CA), Congressman Sarbanes (D-MD), and Congressman Faso (R-NY) circulating a letter to fund the SBHC Authorization at $10 million. We’re asking all school-based health care advocates to please send this letter to their House Members and request that they sign on. Deadline for signatures is close of business on Wednesday, March 14.

Given the briefing’s focus on the impact of the opioid epidemic and young people’s subsequent needs for mental health services, we foresee several legislative opportunities in this space as several bills are currently in development—both with regard to opioids as well as mental health. Thanks again to all of you who helped make our briefings such a success!

Letter: Support School-Based Health Centers Funding in FY19

Hallways to Health Act Section-by-Section Analysis


Youth Advocacy in New York: Moving the Needle for School-Based Health Care

February 15, 2018

By Fathima Lye, National Youth Advisory Council member

February needs no introduction in the New York school-based health world – it’s a busy time of year for everyone at local, state, and national levels as they prepare for Advocacy Day on February 6. The month of February is also well known in our field as National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize our success and raise awareness about how school-based health centers (SBHCs) are revolutionizing the way children and adolescents access health care services across the country.

For SBHC supporters in New York, Advocacy Day allows students and adults to speak out for certain policies that really hit home. It’s a special day where people from around the state go to the capital to support or speak about important issues the state is facing.

I traveled to Albany, NY in both 2016 and 2017 to participate in Advocacy Day. In 2016, we (Montefiore Youth Council) advocated for more school health center funding and expressed the importance of the SBHC model to students who access care in their health centers. Students shared their heartfelt stories and personal connections to their SBHCs. We explained to policymakers that more funding would allow SBHCs to run more efficiently and provide the highest level of care to students. Research shows that students with access to SBHCs are less likely to be hospitalized, are more likely to stay in school while taking care of their health, can find resources to manage a healthy body and mind, and can take advantage of the new services many SBHCs are providing, such as oral and vision care.

In 2017, our main advocacy goal was a Medicaid carve-out (Medicaid funds that are directly allocated from the state to the health center on a fee-for-service basis). In this model, SBHCs can bill the state directly for services provided and create a streamlined process for reimbursement that increases revenue. Due to our advocacy efforts, along with those of many other supporters, the state legislature continues to fund a number of SBHCs in New York. In fact, the NY state investment in school-based health care is the largest in the nation!  The lesson? We can truly create change when we advocate together.

This year, the Montefiore Youth Councils (MYC) in Bronx, NY geared up to put their advocacy skills in action. During our winter summit, Tanya Thompson from PreP Consulting prepped us on how to prepare our elevator pitches, social media do’s and don’ts, how to make the best first impression, and how to use best practices in our interviews. Armed with these skills, we actively engaged with legislators about school-based health centers as well as our advocacy projects throughout the school year. MYC, along with students from other SBHCs across the state, spent February 6, 2018 advocating for themselves, their peers, and their communities.

Advocacy Day is truly inspiring to take part in and witness. I got to see lots of students advance the same goal: to create a brighter and healthier tomorrow. I’m thrilled to see what other positive changes may occur after our voices united in the spirit of this year’s National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month theme, “Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies”!


HRSA Announces $10M in Capital Investments for SBHCs

February 14, 2018

This week the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the availability of up to $10 Million in funding for school health center capital investments. The agency is expected to make up to 100 awards to currently operational school-based health centers for the purpose of increasing “access to mental health, substance abuse, and childhood obesity-related services.”  The purpose of grant expenditures is limited to “minor alteration/renovation (A/R) projects and/or the purchase of moveable equipment, including telehealth equipment.” Personnel and services are not allowable.

Click here for the notice of funding opportunity announcement (HRSA-19-073). Deadline is April 17.


2018 Annual Convention: a Taste of What’s to Come

February 12, 2018

By Andrea Shore, Director of Programs

What do student health advocates, primary care clinicians, and mental health professionals have in common with medical-legal partnerships, telehealth, and oral health? They are all part of the 2018 National School-Based Health Care Convention!

This year’s wide-ranging workshops reflect the commitment that school-based health care professionals have to helping all children and adolescents thrive. Expert presenters will help attendees create the kinds of conditions that transform schools into hubs of wellness.

Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) represent the cutting edge of school-based health care. One of our 2018 workshops will feature presenters from two MLPs that operate as part of school-based health care services. Workshop participants will learn how clinical staff can connect patients and their families with legal advocates who can to take on social and environmental conditions that damage health. Experts will share how to conduct effective intake procedures, as well as overcome barriers to providing legal services to adolescents. Everyone in the workshop will walk away with concrete strategies to create a medical-legal partnership.

With telehealth occupying an increasingly important opportunity in school health, we’ll offer numerous workshops on this emerging health care strategy. One workshop will take participants on a journey through the Virtual Dental Home (VDH), a system developed and tested in a six-year proof-of-concept demonstration. Not only will workshop attendees learn about the program, they’ll also study the needed policy environment and how similar systems could work in various states.

Opioid use disorder (OUD) and the spreading epidemic are a top priority for the health care and public health sectors.

There is some good news: early experimentation with adolescent treatment programs in SBHCs is yielding promising results! Presenters of one OUD workshop will share the successes of their adolescent treatment program at a federally qualified health center and their efforts to link and replicate the services in two SBHCs. Small groups will apply catalytic thinking to identify what an integrated OUD treatment program would make possible for their own SBHCs and communities. Workshop presenters will review the interdisciplinary approach of providing either buprenorphine or injectable naltrexone combined with behavioral health services in a primary care setting. Participants will even learn clinical pearls in harm reduction, medication assisted treatment, behavioral health care, and restorative justice practices.

These workshops are just a small sample of the many inspiring conversations taking place in Indianapolis at the 2018 National School-Based Health Care Convention. Join us. We promise to fuel your growth in confidence, competence and vision.


New York Extends Medicaid Carve-Out for SBHCs

December 19, 2017

In what is an enormous victory for the largest state school-based health care program in the country, the New York School-Based Health Alliance has successfully secured a 2.5 year extension of its Medicaid Managed Care (MMCP) carve-out for school-based health centers, which was scheduled to take place in July 2018.

Since 1985, SBHCs have been carved-out of the MMCP program, enabling them to receive reimbursement directly from the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) on a fee-for-service basis. Without securing this carve-out, SBHCs would have suffered reduced revenue and would have been unable to provide vital health services to the kids and teens who rely on those safety net providers.

“I am so pleased to receive this news just before we break for the holidays. This is the result of tireless committee work by NYSBHA’s policy advisor, leaders and members on behalf of the field, and I am honored to work with them all.” –Sarah Murphy, Executive Director, New York School-Based Health Alliance (NYSBHA)

New York’s 252 SBHCs deliver services to over 200,000 children in medically underserved neighborhoods including primary, dental, mental, and reproductive health care services in schools.

The carve-out is now scheduled to expire in January 2021.

Read NYSBHA’s letter to Governor Cuomo here and view his final signature here.

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Youth Advisory Council: YOUTH IN ACTION

November 14, 2017

This story comes from the blogger of the School-Based Health Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council, Gianna Forlizzi. Every other month, as part of the “Youth Voices” blog series, Gianna will share updates from the Youth Advisory Council as well as stories of youth development at the Alliance, its partners, and throughout the school-based health care field. The following highlights come from the members of the School-Based Health Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) and young people from across the country. Read more from the series here.

YAC Highlights

Social Media

Our council member Fathima Lye has been hard at work curating powerful content that captivates young people and promotes school-based health to share on YAC social media (@sbhayac). Via our Twitter and Instagram accounts, our YAC team is posting content that’s focused on current news items that affect young people and health in schools.  Recent posts have spanned a variety of topics: health awareness topics for the month of November, such as Diabetes, COPD, and Alzheimer’s; major news related to school health and SBHCs throughout the country; and bullying initiatives. Upcoming themes for this month include lung cancer, smoking prevention, and the importance of sleep—especially for youth.

We encourage young people (and other SBHC advocates!) to reach out to YAC accounts with any activities that are taking place in their SBHCs or communities. We’d love to highlight youth work and show our support!

For more information, contact the social media liaison, Fathima Lye.

Community Outreach

The Youth Advisory Council has started intentionally doing work with community partners like primary care facilities, school-based health center sponsors, and school mental health partners. We’re working with these organizations to develop youth advisory councils and youth training tracks. Since starting our work with these partners, we’ve received an influx of requests for assistance! To respond to that demand, we’ve created a Community Outreach Liaison position on our council to assist with this body of work. If YOU work for an organization that’s trying to get more youth involved or are interested in starting a youth advisory council or a youth training program, we can help! Our online toolkit ‘Lead the Way’: Engaging Youth in Health Care is a great place to start.

For more information and assistance with your youth programming, contact the community outreach liaison, Nicole Carrillo.


On September 26, YAC member Cameron Estrada and Alliance program manager Seleena Moore gave a presentation titled “Youth in SBIRT” for all of the SBIRT-in-SBHCs grantees. Their presentation covered youth development principles, supports, opportunities, and services needed for youth engagement, and how young people can be involved in SBIRT work through screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. Cameron and Seleena also explained how the YAC can be a resource for centers engaging in SBIRT work.

Cameron and fellow YAC member Nate Batiste were selected to join the Youth Engagement Strategies and Support (YESS) Youth Advisory Board for the Center for Social Innovation. A fellow Conrad N. Hilton Foundation SBIRT grantee, the Center will work with an advisory board of college students to provide feedback and guidance on marketing materials and resources aimed at increasing and improving youth engagement in substance use prevention activities.

For more information, contact the SBIRT in SBHCs program liaison, Cameron Estrada.

Community Shout-Outs

Center for School Mental Health-MD

On October 20, nine high school students from the mid-Atlantic area came together in Washington, D.C. for the National School Mental Health Youth Leadership Day, organized as part of the Center for School Mental Health’s 22nd Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health. Youth leaders took part in activities and discussions about school mental health and how to take action in their own schools. The youth leaders also attended several conference sessions with adult facilitators to learn about some of the latest research and practice in the field.

This energetic group was eager to share their experiences and current school mental health advocacy efforts in their community, and they also learned from the facilitators and one another. One participant said, “I was impressed by how active my peers are on mental health issues.” Another noted, “I learned a lot about the different ways that targeted mental health support… can really help [students] start off high school with a good foundation in mental health.” The group continues to stay in touch following the conference, and the CSMH looks forward to incorporating a similar leadership initiative in its 2018 conference in Las Vegas!

To learn more about current and upcoming School Mental Health Youth Leadership opportunities, please email


Novelly is on a mission to reinvent high school health class by using storytelling to engage young people in conversations about sexuality. Started in February 2017, Novelly creator Anna Casalme and fellow Stanford graduates began the volunteer-run school-based mentoring program as a side project to address the frustrations and limitations they experienced working in health education. The pilot showed that combining mentoring and culturally relevant media (books, shows and films targeted towards teenagers) promotes open and organic discussions on tough topics such as sexual assault and consent. It also revealed a not-so-surprising truth about participants—adding a technology component greatly enhanced interaction by meeting teens where they are: their phones. From this, Novelly has now developed the Mighty Networks app in addition to the online platform, where teens can follow a health topic, join a club, ask questions, and share stories with their peers.

For more information, questions for comments, please email

Want to share YOUR stories of youth development and be featured in the next “Youth in Action” blog?  Contact the Youth Advisory Council at


How Young People Benefit as Recipients and Leaders

October 20, 2017

By Komal Oza, member of the Youth Advisory Council

A fruitful partnership between adults and youth is the essence of youth development, so using this strategy to create a greater impact makes a lot of sense. However, putting such partnerships into action requires deliberate effort on the part of both adults and young people. The School-Based Health Alliance believes that youth development is an essential, core component for health centers to reach their fullest potential—and the Alliance is focused on helping school-based health centers (SBHCs) across the country implement youth involvement into their programs.

Mental health, substance abuse, and reproductive health planning… these are just a few of the issues that are coming to the forefront in schools nationwide and that will require more research into young people’s needs and interests. Having youth involved can bring substantial benefits to an SBHC that’s looking to foster effective peer-to-peer outreach in their school.

At my first National School-Based Health Care Convention in June 2017, I participated in workshops that gave young people the opportunity to truly use their creative minds for a better tomorrow. We shared our views on current health issues with one another and were able to take that dialogue back to our own school based health centers as well as our peers. Participants also had the chance to apply the strategies they learned in the workshops to craft potential solutions and improvements to the health issues they saw in their SBHCs, schools, and communities. The critical thinking skills these young people used while forming such innovative ideas inspired me to think about how outreach in my own SBHC could be more effective by relaying information from peer to peer.

This is my first year working with the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), and my experience so far has allowed me to explore the School-Based Health Alliance’s strategies for successful youth development. As the council’s secretary, I’m able to study the ideas that each of my fellow YAC members bring to the table and see the value of their contributions. In addition, I’ve discovered that I can accomplish more when I work with a team to help young people reach their fullest potential.

After working with the YAC as well as other organizations such as Reach Out for their Youth Policy Initiative Project in its work to prevent substance abuse in teens, I’ve realized that youth engagement affords SBHCs consistent opportunities to reflect on their work and recognize which areas of their strategies they should improve so that they reach the widest possible audience with their desired message. As a youth participant and representative in the field of school-based health care, I’ve been fortunate to have various opportunities to soak up knowledge and develop new skills from my peers.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Youth Advisory Council and the School-Based Health Alliance to both improve policies in school-based health centers and improve the health of children across the nation—helping them overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of their ambitions. I’ve fostered a deep sense of self-pride and fulfillment by being able to make such a meaningful difference in my community.


My School-Based Health Care Summer: Reflections from an Intern

September 15, 2017

By Anna Gabriella Casalme

During the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with the School-Based Health Alliance in several capacities: as a youth consultant with the Alliance’s California state affiliate, as a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) member, and now as a member of its Board of Directors. This summer, thanks to a generous scholarship from the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, I worked as a policy and advocacy intern in the School-Based Health Alliance’s Washington, DC office. As someone who is passionate about the school-based health care (SBHC) model, I’ve benefitted so much from engaging in SBHC advocacy this summer—especially during such a dire time for health care policy on Capitol Hill. I’ve shared some highlights of my experience below.

Using “Design-Thinking” to Combat Student Stress and Anxiety

On June 19, I challenged young convention attendees in a crash course on “design-thinking”—or human-centered design—in my “Design-Thinking for Better Health” workshop at the 2017 National School-Based Health Care Convention. Taught at universities and companies across the globe, the design-thinking framework is an empathetic, iterative, and fast-paced approach to problem solving. As the participants became familiarized with the model, I split them into groups led by members of the California School-Based Health Alliance Youth Board. Their challenge? Use the design-thinking framework to answer this question: How might we help students deal with stress and anxiety?

Over the course of the three-hour workshop, each group tapped into their creativity. They worked together to design programs, products, and campaigns that would improve their own health and that of their peers. After interviewing their peers, ideating, and prototyping, each group presented their solutions to the judges — the national 2017 Youth Advisory Council.

To say I was thrilled by the outcome would be an understatement. Their solutions were remarkably diverse and innovative, ranging from Werk, a mobile app for de-stressing on the go, to MentorMe, a mentorship program for first-generation college students. The winning idea was StudenTrac, a tool to facilitate student-teacher communication and improve students’ time management skills.

The energy, optimism, and imagination of the young people in my generation never ceases to amaze me—and this workshop was no exception.

Supporting the Leaders of Tomorrow, Today

As a former member of the national Youth Advisory Council, I’ve enjoyed working with new 2017 YAC members throughout the summer to develop their program curriculum. I recall how my own confidence was bolstered by my time on that council, so I’ve relished the opportunity to watch the same thing happen among the new members.

The youth development programming at the School-Based Health Alliance continues to provide meaningful opportunities for youth to engage with Alliance staff, projects, and national partners, and I can’t wait to witness the council’s impact on two initiatives in particular this year: the Youth Safety Net Project and SBIRT in SBHCs.


After only nine weeks here, the degree to which I’ve expanded my understanding about health care policy and youth development has been astounding. This fall, I’ll attend the University of Edinburgh to pursue my master’s degree and I’m eager to build on these experiences in my quest to promote child and adolescent health. My sincere thanks to CAPAL and the School-Based Health Alliance for making this internship possible!