A healthy trip to Washington, D.C.

Daulton James Jones, Reporter

Over winter break, Bakersfield College’s Ray Purcell was invited to the White House for his contributions in the field of Health and Wellness. He was accompanied by students Vicente Lopez and Alexis Rivera.  The three of them came back from their White House trip with new visions of themselves, BC, and new ideas to bring to the table to improve the school’s approach to health and wellness.

During the start of his time as the head of BC’s health center in January of 2015, Purcell was approached by members of the community to inform students about the ACA (Affordable Care Act) on campus. This was after the ACA enrollment period was over, so he put it on his list of things to do next semester.

Last September, he got back to that by contacting the same members of the community who got him in touch with the Dignity Foundation, a non-profit organization for community outreach. He also got into contact with Omni Health and Covered California to help him reach out to students about the ACA in an effort to inform and involve students with health and wellness issues.

It was during this time that the White House Office of Engagement reached out to BC and informed Purcell that the White House was interested in promoting the ACA.

“When I got this I was glad because we were already doing all of these things to try and promote the ACA,” Purcell said. “From having people on campus passing out pamphlets to our online magazine Student Health 101.”

Purcell and the rest of the Student Health Services department were already making steps toward student-based health.

During open enrollment for the ACA last year, BC had representation all over campus to promote and enroll students and faculty members. Aaron Johnson, a representative from Covered California, came to BC to inform students and faculty.

Two days before Christmas, Purcell received an email from the White House thanking BC for participating in promoting the ACA and Covered California, which he will be getting a certificate from. In that same email, they informed him that he’d been chosen to come to the White House and represent BC.

“I was just thinking, ‘We’ve got to go! We have got to go. You can’t say no to the White House,’” Purcell said.

He was excited to go and was glad that students would be able to attend because they work for the Student Health Center. The health center’s student governance was able to receive a grant from a charity that is also helping BC become a tobacco free campus, which ultimately led to them all attending. Once they got to Washington, D.C., they met with Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s office staff to do an informational on student health and how under promoted it is.

“We wanted to present to them the importance of student health. Because so many students are an illness, flat tire, sick parent away from their diploma or certificate,” Purcell said.

“We are one of the programs that were made to keep students in school and healthy to help them succeed.”

The Friday of their trip was the recognition day, where schools from all over the nation and Puerto Rico came together. Here they all shared ideas of what they wanted to do to move their student body in a different and healthier direction. The one thing they all had in common was the fact that they are all trying to provide quality healthcare to the student community in order to further their education.

At the White House, they had group conversations about the accomplishments the schools had made in the arena of health. This is where Purcell exchanged and gathered information with the other campuses that were there.

Three-hundred fifty schools in the nation and Puerto Rico agreed to follow the best practices in terms of ACA enrollment. Of the 350 campuses, the White House chose 60 to attend. BC was one of the 60.

Coming back from attending this assembly at the White House not only the students, but Purcell, were inspired. They haven’t said how these inspirations are going to manifest themselves on the BC campus yet, but they are coming.

“It was great to see these students come to realize that they are my boss,” Purcell said. “They were here to represent their student body in D.C. to try and help them become a better campus. To see them try to make an impact on their campus, and advocate for their campus in Washington, D.C. When a couple days ago they never realized that they could truly make an impact.”

Rivera wants to participate in an organization that will improve youth health by physical exercise and education, and making BC tobacco free.