School health program receives $400K grant

REDWOOD CITY — Three years ago, a second-grader causing trouble in his Fair Oaks School classroom was referred to the school’s family center; now, he is a conflict manager among other students.

Turnaround stories are common at Fair Oaks, Taft, Hoover, Kennedy Middle and Sequoia High schools, according to Veronica Lobos, who coordinates the Fair Oaks Family Center. These campuses, operating as “community schools” under the Redwood City 2020 program, offer everything from therapy and tutoring to helping with enrollment in countywide health-insurance programs, and will benefit from a new $394,565 grant from the California Endowment.

The three-year grant will boost health services at these Redwood City schools, which attempt to offer a one-stop service shop for busy, low-income families, according to Tajel Shah, executive director of Redwood City 2020. Those services will focus, in particular, on the mental-health needs of students.

“There’s a lot of stigma in a lot of communities and cultures about going to a counselor,” Shah said. “We’re finding that children do have a lot of mental health issues … but they’re not necessarily clinical, so a lot of kids are left in this gray area.”

However, those issues can harm students’ performance in school, lowering grades and sparking conflict with fellow students, according to Shah.

The goal of Redwood City 2020 programs is to connect struggling kids and their parents with the resources they need to recover and succeed. The agency serves 750 students and more than 5,000 families each year with an annual budget of $5 million, according to Shah.

Services range from intervention for children with alcoholic or abusive parents to role modeling.

This is Redwood City’s first grant from the California Endowment, which hands out up to $6.5 million each year, according to program officer Cecilia Echeverria.

“This program is making sure kids are healthy, that they are safe,” Echeverria said. “We know those outcomes are tied to their educational issues and to prospects for success.”

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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