Viking Alumni Serve Abroad --"Giving Back"
The NSH Alumni Association is interested in hearing about what our alumni are up to! So we're starting a new section in our newsletter -
Viking Alumni Giving Back - to capture some of the ways our alumni are giving back locally, nationally, or in the global community. The focus of the series is to share with our members and friends what our alumni are doing, as well as to hopefully inspire current NSH students towards possible career paths that they might not have considered or perhaps known about. This first segment focuses on two alumnae who have given back through work in international relief or development. This field of work is very broad ranging from short term mission or project work that is often focused on disasters or emergencies to longer term development projects, both of which are done in lower-income developing countries all over the world. Here we focus on two alumni from the class of 1981, Kay Mattson and Marit (Parker) DiRado teammates on North's girls' basketball team that went to state in 1981. Kay works as an independent international consultant conducting assessments and/or evaluations primarily for public health and water, sanitation and hygiene projects and Marit works as a nurse in cancer care in the San Francisco area. This past year she worked in an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) for Partners in Health (International NGO) in Liberia. We asked them to share with us a little about their work.
Kay came to work in international public health as a second career after almost 20 years working in the US in human services and low-income housing. Her work has taken her to Haiti, the Maldives, South Sudan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor Leste and this past year to Vanuatu and India. Given her love of water she took the advice of many and developed a specialty focus on water, sanitation and hygiene. In 2011, she managed the emergency cholera response program for the NGO Mercy Corps in Haiti. Her team of 24 Haitian staff reached out to over 300,000 people in the central plateau of Haiti by providing education on how to prevent and treat cholera and providing access to water treatmentsupplies.
This past year she was in Vanuatu when Pam, a category 5 cyclone, hit the island country in the South Pacific. She safely rode it out in a secured house with other staff from the French Red Cross to awake in the morning to the massive destruction and instead of doing the planned evaluation work in the North, helped with relief efforts until the emergency staff arrived. As part of her work she says she gets to see a lot of toilets! With 1.1 billion people lacking access to a toilet in the world, something few in the US can relate to, she's motivated that perhaps her work will improve the effectiveness of projects that are working to increase access to toilets. Her advice for current NSH students interested in this field of work is to learn a second language (or two), to think critically, to listen well, to be able to solve problems using limited resources, and to have a sense of humor!
As a healthcare worker, Marit followed the news about the Ebola crisis as it evolved during 2014. In September an NPR story about the outbreak compelled her to fill out a generic USAID recruitment form. This was sent to different NGOs working on the crisis. She received follow up applications from a few NGO's but chose to go with Partners in Health after talking with Kay who had seen their work in Haiti, and after reading the book
Mountains Beyond Mountains about the founder Dr. Paul Farmer.
Marit arrived in Sierra Leone on February 1st after spending a week in Boston during "snowmaggedon" for orientation. When she and 17 other "clinicians" arrived in Freetown, they spent the first week at a World Health Organization training where they learned about the Ebola virus, how to treat it and how to safely "don and doff" the personal protection equipment (PPE). Marit then went to Port Loko where she worked for six weeks in an Ebola treatment unit (ETU).
She said that the work was very demanding physically and extremely challenging mentally and emotionally. Twice a day for 1.5 hours Marit would carefully get into the space suit-like PPE. Temperatures could reach up to 120 inside the equipment when the temp outside was 95 degrees. The lack of familiar supplies and the scarcity of resources made caring for the sickest patients she had ever nursed incredibly difficult. A highlight for her was letting a 12 year-old know that his Ebola test was negative after his 18 day stay in the ETU. He was cured! Unfortunately that was one of the few times she experienced that joyous celebration. As one of her pediatric colleagues remarked, he saw way more children die in his six weeks in Sierra Leone than he had in his practice back in the states. Ebola is insidious and very difficult to erase, especially in a country where the health care system is in shambles to begin with due to civil war.
Marit's advice to current NSH students is that you seek to do good in whatever situation you are in! The joys and rewards of experiencing new cultures, meeting incredible people who are similar yet so different, and the realization of how great everyone is, makes the volunteer experience wonderful. Have a sense of humor, a willingness to serve and let others make the call, and a hankering for adventures!
Let us know about other alumni who are "giving back" so we can share their stories with other alumni and current NSH students in upcoming newsletters.
What's Happening at North This Summer?
The common conception of a school building is that for 9 months of the year it is filled to brim with students and staff and when it is empty for the three months of summer--kind of lying fallow. Not so with North High!
Numerous programs bring hundreds of students into the halls, the classrooms, the cafeteria, and the library of the school. The Summer Transition Program brought in over 250 incoming freshmen for a month-long for an introduction to expectations for high school, including learning many academic and other survival skills. The
Migrant High School Program served 80 students for 6 weeks, while the Migrant Middle School Program reached another 80 young people. The North High Credit Recovery Program helped around 100 students who had fallen behind in their credits and were helped to get on track to graduate with their class. Elevate Math, a program for middle school students will be working in August to prepare around 35 kids who need a jump start for their high school mathematics. Finally, an Advanced Placement "Boot Camp"is not only encouraging students who might not otherwise take AP classes, but is giving them skills to be successful in them. In addition, scores of students are receiving breakfasts and lunches on the Federal Free Lunch Program.
Through bond and budgeted moneys, the building and campus are getting a number of upgrades and safety redos. Most noticeable and somewhat controversial to some is the removal of the two large chimneys that have been a part of the school's skyline for over 75 years. Neither chimney is used any more, and they were considered an earthquake hazard.
Also for safety, all the classroom doors are being re-keyed and mini-blinds are being added to the interior doors and windows. Air conditioning is being installed in all computer labs to protect the computers. The Auditorium and 400 Building are having the roofing upgraded and cracks in the exterior of the gym are being repaired. Lastly, a new sidewalk has been poured leading up to the front steps, replacing the previous one which had begun losing large chunks over the years.
JROTC hosted a drill camp in July and Marching Band will have their camps in August. All fall sports have been holding camps and will begin official practices in August.
So much for nothing going on at school during the summer!