Study by nursing students includes ideas for center

       Ideas came forward Dec. 3 to aid the medical and social well-being of area residents, using the Westside Community Center as a focal point.

Beth-El nursing student Valerie Wierzenski (left) gives Westside resident Cindy O'Keefe a cholesterol and blood sugar screening during the health fair at the Westside Community Center Dec. 3. In the background, another student, Nadia Paez, administers a similar screening.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Included in the presentations by six students in UCCS' Beth-El College of Nursing were proposals for the center to start a volunteer-run produce market (taking advantage of the center's community garden that started this year and theoretically using proceeds to fund college scholarships), to try new ways to reach out to local middle-schoolers, to offer a specific type of wellness program to seniors and to set up partnerships that could use the expertise of various local business owners.
       Dick Siever, who manages the center through the Woodmen Valley Chapel, applauded what he'd heard, and offered to meet soon with the students “and develop a plan.” Costs would be involved in all cases, but “don't worry about money right now,” he told the nursing contingent. “I'd be glad to go out and raise the money, so let's take that off the table.”
       The student nurses' research was part of a class assignment. They are in their last year of Beth-El's public health nursing program. The presentation, attended by local community and medical officials, preceded the Community Center's public “Westside Winter Wellness” event that afternoon that included free health screenings, informational booths and the grand opening of a free nursing center that began operating a few weeks ago (times for the public are Monday to Thursday, 4 to 6:30 p.m.).
       A successful plan to attract middle-schoolers has proved elusive for the center to date. While programs for adults and younger children have mostly worked out, Siever has reported poor attendance for most events and programs geared for the Westside's young teens since Woodmen began a center lease arrangement with the city in April 2010.
       The nurses' research included interviews with staff from Holmes and West middle schools and students from Holmes. Among the recommendations resulting from those talks were ideas for establishing sports or dance clubs at the center, offering “giveaway” events (food or coupons) and giving students the chance to “work off” the cost of programs they might like but can't afford.
       Based on the nurses' findings, needs in all age groups exist in the 80904 zip code, primarily because of income levels that “are significantly lower than those seen at the state and national level,” their report states. This is especially true in married-couple families with children and families headed by single mothers. The latter circumstance occurs at a higher rate than state and national norms, the report also shows.
       However, Beth-El instructor Barbara Joyce cautioned that such information is somewhat dated - students had to use 2000 census data - and it's unlikely that statistics from the 2010 census will be available before 2013.
       In any case, she believes it's good that the basic ssues are being looked at. “These are winnable battles for the community,” she said.
       A total of 49 people had screenings done. Although this total was somewhat less than hoped for (Joyce thinks the cold weather may have contributed), “the people who were there were really interested. They spent lot of time talking to students at the booths.”

Westside Pioneer article