My name is Arika Wieneke and I am one of this year’s Community Fellows. I work at The Health Center (THC), which is a school-based health center located at both Lincoln High and Blue Ridge Elementary in Walla Walla. The work I do for THC draws upon multiple aspects of my education here at Whitman, but as a pre-med sociology major, I feel well prepared to tackle this multi-disciplinary job.
THC was established in 2008 in response to the need for physical and mental health support for the many at-risk students at Lincoln. Since then, THC has expanded to Blue Ridge and grown in the number of services offered. However, they have been struggling to effectively prove that they are having a strong impact on the students they serve. This is not due to a lack of actual impact, but a lack of data to prove it. That’s where I come in. I am attempting to develop a more thorough monitoring and evaluation system that will enable THC to show supporters and other people the great work they’re doing. This is crucial for grant applications and to maintain donor support, which are in turn very necessary to keep THC’s doors open.
Working with data doesn’t thrill and excite most people, but it is a very necessary and important part of non-profit work (and other work as well). Data also helps put things in perspective, which I learned very quickly upon beginning work at THC. I’d heard that there were homeless kids in Walla Walla, but looking at the stats for how many Lincoln students were currently, or had been previously, living on the streets was an eye-opening experience. THC and the data that I have been working with have been the tools to help me break free of the Whitman bubble that I had been living inside here in Walla Walla.
My work with THC has greatly helped me to connect with both the on- and off-campus community in ways that I did not imagine. I have made new connections with the SEC as well as with the diverse group of Community Fellows—most of whom I rarely or never interacted with previously but have come to know and greatly respect this year. I also have new relationships with community members, teachers, counselors, and more within this community that have all helped me to shape an entirely new perspective on Walla Walla. Instead of feeling like a researcher holding a clipboard and peering at the subjects behind a mirrored window, as my previous interactions sometimes felt, I now feel like I am integrated into the Walla Walla community and am proud to say that I am a contributing member.
If you are interested in learning more about THC: http://thehealthcenterww.org