SHS Wellness Center offers a 'safe harbor' among other services

By Lynn R. Parks

Brett Lecky was struck by how Jean Biden, mother of Vice President Joe Biden, was described during her funeral service last month in Wilmington. "She was not only the mother who brought you into this world and gave you life," the Rev. Msgr. J. Thomas Cini told members of the Biden family. "She was also your strength and your rock and your safe harbor in times of challenge." "Mrs. Biden was described as her children's 'safe harbor,'" said Lecky, a social worker with the Seaford High School wellness center. "Many of our kids today don't have a safe harbor, someone in their lives they can discuss things with and feel safe with." Lecky, who came to Seaford High last month after working with private counseling practices in Dover, is trying to give students there a safe harbor. "This center can be the place where kids know it is safe to talk, where they can drop some of the cinder blocks they are carrying around," he said. So many teenagers, he added, "see themselves as worthless." He tries to inspire self-confidence by pointing out their good characteristics. "They aren't used to hearing somebody saying something positive about them," he said. Lecky is one of four employees at the wellness center. Staff at the center, which opened in 1996, also includes the coordinator, Myrna Lehner, administrative assistant, Robin Hayes, and a dietician. A second social worker, who is there just one day a week and who is employed by Contact Delaware, counsels students who have experienced sexual abuse. The wellness center is financed by the state and operated by Nanticoke Health Services. Its services are free and available to all students at the high school. That is especially important, said Lehner, at a time when so many parents have lost their jobs and consequently their health insurance. "I just can't imagine not wanting my student, if I was a parent of a child here, to be enrolled in the center," said Lehner. "We really are a great resource for parents." Students enroll in the center by filling out a registration form, which asks for a medical history. They also have to have a form signed by their parents, on which the parents can choose not to have certain services that are provided by the center available to their children. Currently, 635 students are enrolled in the center. The SHS student population is 858.

Services provided by the center include physical examinations, in particular those that are required by employers or to play on high school sports teams, immunizations, allergy shots and referrals to doctors in the community if required. Lehner can also diagnose minor illnesses and prescribe medicine. Recently, she said, a student came into the center complaining of an earache. She was able to prescribe an antibiotic and to administer pain-killing ear drops so that he could return to class. Lecky provides counseling, individual as well as group, and can refer students to outside counselors for more intense therapy. The dietician helps students who want to get more fit. The center also offers classes. This month, Lehner will lead a Wise Guys group for boys, to help teach responsibility and goal setting. She also plans to offer a yoga class, for students as well as teachers. Last year, she offered a class for cheerleaders on how to protect their backs from injury. She also offered a class for girls in danger of dropping out of school. Three in the class stuck out the year and graduated and the other four are still in school, she said. There are services that the center does not provide, as proscribed by the school district. It does not offer routine pregnancy tests; pregnancy tests are done only if necessary in prescribing medicine or diagnosing an illness. It also does not hand out birth control or test for sexually-transmitted diseases. Sophomore Ryan Craft, 16, enrolled with the wellness center when he was a freshman. It is much more convenient than having to travel to his family doctor, whose office is in Milford, he said. A diabetic, Ryan also finds comfort in knowing he can go to the center when he has a problem. Last year, Lehner referred him to his family doctor for suspected pneumonia. This year, she diagnosed and treated a sinus infection. He also relies on the center for sports physicals; he is on the cross country, wrestling and baseball teams. "This is a real good place," he said. "And the people who work here are really nice." "We are another resource for kids and their parents," said Lehner. "Today, I believe that everyone needs that."

For your information The wellness center at Seaford High School is open to all students there. For details, call 629-0884.

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