When you bring 80 teenagers from all over the state to the capitol, it’s difficult to predict the outcome. Lucky for us, these weren’t just any kids that showed up to the capitol last week: they proved themselves to be intelligent, poised, and poignant at the right moments.
With legislators busy throughout the day with committee meetings, the students needed to display a strong punch of emotion and eloquence to be memorable. It is safe to say they delivered.
“I probably wouldn’t be where I was today without the center,” said a teen from Benton Harbor to Senator John Proos, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Senator Proos must have been moved, because soon after he took to the time to take the youth from Benton Harbor onto the house floor, where he described to them how legislation works. “What do you think the most important part of my job? It’s Listening,” he told the wide-eyed group of students.
Later in a meeting with Representative Al Pscholka, a student related how the center made a difference for him from a behavioral health standpoint. He explained that instead of turning inward, he was able to work with counselors, find what was going on, and improve his life skills. Later that day, Rep. Pscholka publicly recognized the students on the house floor as the session started, making sure that everyone knew they were in attendance.
These kind of moments were present throughout the day. When they weren’t tugging your heart, students were making important points about school-based health care.
“Access to health centers is important because every time I go in there, there’s always someone to help me,” said a young man from Saginaw High School, “When I have a problem I can talk to them without them telling anyone else.”
Others explained that school-based health care went beyond just receiving care; it meant a way to build relationships with directly health care providers.
“Sometimes I just go in to the health centers to talk to our medical assistant to have a brief conversation,” said another student from Saginaw.
Youth emphasized these points over and over again during the day. It is evident that school-based health care is a way to build confidence and support mental health as well as take care of their physical needs. Centers have become the go-to place for any mental health issues in a school environment. Whereas kids have very real physical needs, they also need to communicate with adults they can trust in a confidential environment. Without school-based and school-linked health centers, many of these students would suffer as much emotionally as they would physically.