||For many students at Lowell High, Cindy (top) and Lynne (bottom) have been the familiar faces they needed to make it through the school year.
Congratulations to all of the parents, teachers, and students (especially the 2020 graduates) out there for making it through this difficult last semester!
We're excited to introduce you to two of our School-Based Health Superstars who have become virtual caregivers, cheerleaders, and even tutors during this crisis.
Meet Clinical Social Worker (and proud Lowell High School graduate!) Lynne Gallagher and Nurse Practitioner Cindy Slaga. They've become trusted faces to the hundreds of teens who rely on our School-Based Health Center at Lowell High School.
Since 2002, Lowell CHC's School-Based Health Centers have helped keep young people healthy and learning by providing access to routine care, right during the school day.
"The biggest benefit of our School-Based Health Center is that we become a part of the student's daily lives. We are are there, with an open door," shares Cindy.
When the pandemic hit and students were sent home, Lynne and Cindy were concerned. How do you provide school-based health when students aren't in school?
Eager to maintain connections, they picked up the phone. What happened next was a surprise, and a relief.
"Telehealth has really deepened our relationship with students," says Cindy. "Just hearing the sounds of what's going on at home gives you so much insight. You can see the pictures on the bedroom wall, who they are interacting with on a daily basis."
And students welcomed them into their homes. Cindy and Lynne have been invited to join dinner table conversations, even helped teens address difficult topics with a parent.
"Lowell is the type of community where we're seeing generations of families," says Cindy. Recently, while offering her skills as a lactation consultant to a new mom in our OB department, Cindy realized that she knew the patient's older daughter from her work at the High School. "These connections provide an incredible opportunity in terms of patient care."
COVID-19 has also presented new health challenges.
Says Lynne, "A lot of my conversations are about the connection between physical and mental health," especially as teens find themselves indoors and away from friends for days on end.
Then, there's the stress that, for many, has accompanied the sudden shift to online learning. At one point, Lynne realized a student's anxiety was related to a difficult homework assignment. She offered to help. "I never thought I would be doing Algebra again," Lynne laughs.
"Sometimes, it's not about the assignment. It's the social connections teens are missing from school, difficult situations at home. I try to support them where they are, then look deeper," she adds.
That increased trust and personal connection goes both ways - and will be there whether physical obstacles like distance or a face mask get in the way.
"I'm being more open with my own experiences," Lynne says. "At the end of the day, we're all human. Sometimes the uncertainty gets to me - and I let them know that. There is value in that connection."