Set to officially open this school year, the new Sylvia Méndez Wellness Center – located on the grounds of Felícitas and Gonzalo Méndez High School – will soon be available to students and the Boyle Heights community.
The 6,500 square foot building will have six rooms for medical exams, three rooms to provide mental health services, and three rooms for dental services. It will be staffed by St. John’s Well Child & Family Center and ENKI Mental Health Services.
To Los Angeles Unified School Board Member Mónica García, the wellness center “is another strategy to help young people graduate and be their best selves.”
“By bringing the services onto campus, you build trust, you build a strategy for success, and we build healthier communities, more attendance, and more success,” Garcia said.
It’s one of 19 wellness centers that the Los Angeles Unified School District has opened in the last couple years and it is set to be the largest.
Emily Grijalva, a restorative justice and community school coordinator at Méndez, has been involved in the planning of the center’s construction since she began working at the school seven years ago. Grijalva said she hopes the wellness center, which was built on a former basketball court, could create internships or a program where students can get involved.
“There’s a lot of students who are interested in pursuing the medical field,” Grijalva said.
Grijalva said the center will address the high rates of diabetes, asthma, STDs and other illnesses in the community. It will also benefit those who may not have access to health insurance or are unable to receive medical consultations elsewhere.
The wellness center will have two separate entrances, both with their own independent lobby. One entrance will be on First Street for non-students, where residents will be able to go in and make appointments. The other entrance will be inside the school for students.
The Sylvia Méndez Wellness Center is named after the daughter of Felícitas and Gonzalo Méndez, who at eight years old became an instrumental figure in what became the landmark Méndez v. Westminster school desegregation case decided in 1947. The Boyle Heights school is named after her late parents. A mural featuring Sylvia Méndez, who worked 30 years as a nurse, is on the front entrance of the center.
“We felt this is a way to honor her for what she has done for the community,” Grijalva said.
Luz Hermosillo, a parent whose child attends the school, said the wellness center will help students who don’t have private health insurance.
“They’ll help all the students regardless if they have it or not,” she said.
Alyssa Carmona, Méndez’s former associated student body president who graduated this year, said she envisions students using the center, “especially knowing it’s just three steps away from our school.”
“I think that is just amazing knowing that the [students] deserve to have all of these resources available,” Carmona said.