Students Get Answers at Health Fair

Students Get Answers at Health Fair

Pimmit Hills Alternative High School holds fair to inform students.

Many people have health questions but do not know where to get the answers. For some students, all the answers were conveniently located in one place last week.

Pimmit Hills Alternative High School in McLean, held a fair that had everything from booths showing how much fat was in a bag of Lays chips or equipment that could test the strength of a person's biceps, to classes about alcohol and drug counseling and advice on careers in the medical field.

"This fair gives me ideas about how to motivate my cousin into exercising," said Milton Anchillo, an 18-year-old student at the school. "I like it a lot because I can get brochures that tell me how to help her out."

Two years ago, Cynthia Johnson, chair of the special education department realized that the students needed help with everyday health. "There was a student who lived in a garage," said Johnson. "There were other students who did not have a house to live in."

As a result of this finding, she went to Principal Beverly Wilson and talked to her about the students. A Coordinated Health Committee, made up of faculty, sent out a survey to the students and the results were pretty shocking to the staff.

"We surveyed them with questions such as 'who their doctor was' and 'where they go for health care,'" said Bud Mayo, chairman of the Coordinated Health Committee and senior assistant principal of the school. "We found that over 80 percent of the students did not have health care. We found out that for a large number of them, the emergency room is their medical center. The teachers and staff are concerned with the health of the students and want to help them."

AS A RESULT of the survey, the fair was started. Members of the community representing over 20 agencies came to the school to give advice on topics that are important to the 16- to 26-year-old students and numbers that students can call to get guidance.

Students were able to hear about WIC, a federal program for mothers and children under five who are at nutritional risk. The program provides nutritious foods, information on health diet and referrals to health care.

"This [fair] was very well attended," said Mayo. "We brought in a lot of different people and resources for the students."

Frank Stevens is a history teacher at the school who succinctly summed up the mission of the health fair.

"We try to help with some of the outside problems so then we can become better teachers," he said. "If they have problems on the outside, how can they concentrate on their school work?"

"[The fair] was very interesting," said Liz Velasco, who is interested in becoming a dental hygienist. "This program has a lot of power. You learn how much fat is in everything and that you need to take care of yourself. Also, it was interesting to hear about the medical careers. I want to help people when they go to the dentist's office."

Students were also able to try vegetable chips, a powerbar that had no additives and learn about other healthy foods. They were also able to get their blood pressure checked. The most popular booth, however, had nothing to do with healthy food, but with strength. Students could lift a bar that would test the strength of their biceps. The men's goal was to beat Officer Vincent Jones' score of 106 pounds that he set in the morning. The women had to beat 60 pounds.

However, the health fair is not the only thing that Pimmit offers its students.

"This school is beneficial to students because most of them have been in the United States for less than three years," said Mayo. "Most of the students are over 19 and cannot go to a high school and get a diploma. This school offers them a genuine Virginia diploma when they would not be able to get one from a regular high school."

A high school diploma is important to many students in the school.

"We have students here from 55 different countries and most of them have not been in this country for a very long time ... most of them are the only ones in their family who have some command of the English language, so they are an important member of their family," Mayo said.

While the diversity was apparent, the answer was the same when asked about what they liked about the fair.

"I like all of the information they provide, especially information about housing," said Burhan Mohamed. "Everything changes. This information is good to know."