It’s no surprise that youth living in poverty experience both a significantly higher risk of academic struggles and higher drop-out rates. However, simply participating in an after-school program drastically changes the odds in favor of these students, leading to a higher rate of academic success.
A shining example of an afterschool program working to help our local youth succeed is “FACES For the Future,” funded by The California Endowment. Since 2010 our Building Healthy Communities effort, led by Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, has promoted a safe, productive, and healthy community through the collaborative efforts of families, youth, schools, religious and cultural organizations, businesses, and public and private agencies.
FACES was established to help enrich the lives of youth through education and career training, providing four core components for students: Health Career Training and Work-based learning, Academic Support, Wellness Services and Youth Leadership Development. Through the FACES program in City Heights, high schoolers interested in the medical field are given a once-in-a-lifetime experience by shadowing healthcare professionals at Rady Children’s Hospital.
This level of engagement is crucial because by 2030, the United States is expected to have a vast shortage of medical professionals, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. These shortages may have the greatest impact in diverse communities such as City Heights, where Latino, Southeast Asian, African, and other immigrants already face challenges in accessing healthcare due to language and cultural barriers between the families seeking care and the healthcare workforce that does not fully reflect the populations that they serve. For example, the lack of diversity in the medical field has contributed to the decline in Latinos seeking a healthcare professional for illnesses endemic in the Latino community, such as diabetes and obesity.
FACES not only provides local students an avenue to pursue a health care profession, but also increases their knowledge of health generally in order to help themselves and their families’ well-being right now. Currently there is a high demand for bilingual medical doctors and health professionals, especially in areas like City Heights and other communities with large numbers of immigrant populations who prefer to communicate in a language other than English.
This demographic trend is projected to increase, and with more and more community members able to access healthcare thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the ability to provide culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate care has never been more important. It is exciting to see our local students thrive in a program that not only positively impacts the health and well-being of themselves and their families today, but also sets them on a path to become the doctors, nurses, caregivers, and medical professionals of tomorrow.