Nichole Sandoval, 21, was working as an assistant in a phlebotomist’s office when she realized she had a greater calling. She started to notice people who would come into the office to get their blood drawn and examined had a larger mixture of problems. She saw malnourishment and poor health that was a result of community issues- either not having the information or access to become healthier, or not having the time because of family obligations.
Despite her young age, Nichole had the drive and determination to become part of the solution. In her search she came across one of YDI’s newest movements- the development of a community school at West Mesa High. This was unique because of its approach to community and youth development- taking the programs TO schools instead of requiring YDI clients to come to one of their own sites. Nichole volunteers her time at the school through the YDI connections VISTA program- where college students donate their time to earn scholarships.
YDI has always looked at all the different elements that impact a youth’s circumstances. Economic, environmental, social, and health services are the 4 over arching factors that affect the quality of life; the community school idea addresses all of these issues at once. YDI’s Elev8 department puts family therapists, medical/dental resources, after school activities, and tutoring all under the roof of the school. In addition to the three community schools Elev8 already has in New Mexico middle schools, West Mesa high is New Mexico’s first community school.
It is a huge credit not only to Nichole to volunteer and be on the front lines of progressive community development, but to all the staff, clients, teachers, educators, principal, and families involved in this effort. For more information you can check out their blog at elev8ingnm.blogspot.com.