November 8, 2021

Abriendo Puertas (Open Doors) to Support Family Health and Wellness

LAUSD Grocery Gift Card, Healthy Start Program

In a year of unprecedented challenges, Audubon Middle School, one of Healthier Generation’s 2020 America’s Healthiest Schools and Kohl’s Healthy at Home Family Engagement Distinction award winner, modeled how to successfully leverage community partnerships to support children and families. “Our school success and the impact on our students, staff and families was not only providing resources to meet their needs but providing hope for their future,” says Carmen Obasi, Healthy Start Navigator, Audubon Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). 

Through the LAUSD Healthy Start programs, schools like Audubon ensure that each child and family member receives the physical, emotional, and intellectual resources needed to fully participate as active members and leaders in their communities. The program also collaborates with family-serving agencies in the community to provide more effective support. 

During Abriendos Puertas (Open Doors), ten-week parent leadership classes, caregivers learned self-care techniques, simple exercises, fun ways to engage children in no-cost activities, how to read food labels, how to advocate for their children, and more. “It was not easy for our parents,” added Obasi, “Some days were so emotionally heavy from the weights of life, and yet, they still tuned in to learn new ways and techniques to improve their lives and that of their children.”    

Through partnerships, Audubon Middle School was able to incentivize participation in the these leadership classes, demonstrating its dedication to keeping families engaged to improve their quality of life. “Many parents formed new friendships, others shared they are more physically fit, among other positive outcomes,” says Obasi. 

“The LAUSD Healthy Start programs go above and beyond to create opportunities and a blueprint for wellness where our parents and families thrive.” -- Carmen Obasi  

Along with the Healthy Start programs, Audubon Middle School offers additional support and resources that have made a great impact on their students, staff, and families: 

  • Student leadership organized a toiletries drive which led to an Audubon Community Cares Closet with additional items, such as new and gently used clothing, back packs, school supplies, diapers, and pantry items.  

  • A partnership was formed with Mayor Eric Garcetti's office and T-Mobile to provide hotspots to families without wireless access. 

  • Audubon gave out free PPE (personal protective equipment), including thermometers, masks, and sanitizers. Teachers and staff wore tee shirts with messages in English and Spanish encouraging students to take extra precautions to stay safe.  

  • Relaxation stations were created with two massage chairs, a waterfall, and color therapy lights for staff to have a space to recharge.

  • Audubon developed a Cool Down Room/Safe Space for students that need a break or an emotional rest/recovery. The room is tucked away in the counseling office and contains games, puzzles, coloring books, music, and color therapy lights.   

  • An Audubon Crisis Team was created and made available to students, and a LAUSD Hotline was accessible for mental health needs. A social worker completed regular check-ins with students as needed. 

  • Staff received Mental Health First Aid Training from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness).  

  • Before weekends and holidays, students take home several meals to ensure their nutrition needs are met during time away from campus.  

  • LAUSD offers a Blueprint to Wellness Policy offering nutrition at the highest levels. During the lockdown, Audubon served as a food distribution site and offered Grab and Go meals to all students during the pandemic.    

  • A Walk to Wellness program is provided for parents two to three times a week to walk the perimeter of the school grounds. The goal is to walk at least 30 minutes per session. Parents learn about joint health and reducing pain by walking regularly.  

These programs are vital to addressing the whole health needs—physical, mental, and social-emotional—of children and families in the Audubon community. “Our school needs continuous ongoing support and access to resources to help our underserved students and families continue to thrive,” says Obasi. 

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