Wellness Ambassadors’ Influence at Oakland International High School Resulted in the District’s Highest Vaccination Rate
The Wellness Ambassador Program at Oakland International High School (OIHS) is “considered to be foundational to our community’s ability to center wellness in our school culture,” according to Veronica Garcia Montejano, Principal at OIHS. The Ambassadors made multiple class presentations about the Covid 19 vaccines in addition to one-on-one conversations and vaccine days at the school. They also made multilingual videos for the district in support of Covid 19 vaccinations.
The result: currently 93% of OIHS students have received two vaccines and 5% have received one and are on track to receive their second. This puts OIHS at the highest rate of vaccinated students among all other public high schools in the district. “We believe that our Wellness Ambassadors were critical in developing a sense of urgency among our students to get vaccinated,” said Garcia Montejano.
Hear direct from Wellness Ambassadors and OIHS staff that coordinated the effort. They did a great job.
Ricardo Jaramillo, Staff Member
We did a lot to make our conversations positively oriented — i.e., through taking this vaccine, you have the opportunity to make our community safe, to protect yourself and the people you love. We never came from a place of shame or judgement, we always sought to understand where our students and families were coming from, and to meet them where they were in our conversations.
We made our vaccine days fun — we had tamales, music, dancing. It was a celebration! We celebrated our students for making this positive choice for themselves and their community. Ultimately, I think the sense of community at our school is so singular and strong, and I have to think that played a part in why our vaccination efforts were so successful.
Nilya Abdul, Staff Member (Coordinated a lot of the vaccination efforts)
It was a long road. As a community we did both group and one-one outreach. I also spoke to many families to help ease their hesitation and answer any questions they had. I also reached out to the Ethiopian/Eritrean church and had their religious leader help in doing outreach and religious rituals with our students before they got vaccinated.
(OIHS) has the highest vaccination rate because we worked as a community in convincing and doing outreach. Regardless of the job title, we came together as a team and did what was best for our students. One thing I learned while engaging with immigrant youth is that we often need to get a full parental understanding before we proceed in asking the students.
Jakelyn Chopen Gutierrez , 10th Grade
(I got vaccinated) because through the vaccine I protect myself and protect others, so that COVID doesn’t continue to spread. I was scared at first because I’d heard different things, people said I’d feel really bad or even that I’d turn into a zombie, that it would hurt a lot. But I saw that a lot of people were getting sick and some dying and so I wanted to protect everyone.
Filomeno Tomas 12th grade
I got the vaccine because I wanted to be safe myself, and I wanted to make sure everyone else was safe too. The students here are very concerned about their studies, and many think the same as me: they want to be sure that themselves and each other are safe.
Yasser Alwan, Newcomer Assistant
I tell students that I got the vaccine a year ago and nothing bad happened. I try to discuss the fake information they know about the vaccine and dispel them. If they say ‘my parent says no’, I offer to call the parent and try to convince them.
I remember the Wellness Center people coming into each class at the end of the vaccine day and convincing students to take it. That was a pretty good
Our school has the highest vaccination rate because the Wellness Center people really put solid effort into convincing students to take it. Also, having the clinic at the school really helped push the vaccine rate up. Engaging immigrant youth populations has taught me to first listen to students without judgment then see if it’s okay to offer advice, if they are open to it.