鶹Ů Seniors Help Connect Community Members to Healthcare Resources

Two students sit on bench smiling

Navigating the healthcare system can be difficult. Navigating the healthcare system in your non-native language can be even more difficult. The program helps ease those challenges for patients at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, located three miles from campus.

Health Bridges, a student-run nonprofit organization, provides healthcare resources for low-income, limited English proficient and underserved individuals in the Inland Empire and greater Los Angeles County.

About 60 student volunteers from across The Claremont Colleges are grouped into pods focused on different areas of the program. Volunteers help limited English-speaking patients and healthcare providers at Pomona Valley Hospital communicate using cards with words and pictures of commonly used terms in healthcare. Another pod assists people who qualify to enroll in a public medical assistance program. And a third group carries out educational outreach to youth in the Los Angeles area by conducting mental health workshops and providing nutrition and wellness education. 

Alongside their community partners such as , an organization of Tongan community health workers, and , a federally qualified health center, Health Bridges members organize health fair events and screenings for social needs in order to identify gaps in care faced by often medically underserved communities and subsequently connect them to appropriate resources.

Dylan Blackett ’24, a neuroscience major from Atlanta, and Melissa Seecharan ’24, a molecular biology and English double major from Houston, organize the program. Both interested in careers in healthcare, they took on the task of reviving the program following the pandemic shutdown. This meant reestablishing a presence inside the hospital, dealing with constant changes in hospital staffing and policies, and finding new ways to connect the community to healthcare resources.

“Being in leadership roles for about two years, we’ve encountered a lot of challenges and a lot of what the Draper Center staff likes to call ‘growing pains.’ I think that has made us better at doing this kind of work,” says Seecharan.

Despite the challenges, they remain inspired by the program’s mission.

“It was really aligned with my values and what I wanted to do while I was here. Being able to break out of the institutional bubble and leave an impact and create change was really exciting for me,” says Blackett.

The impact of Health Bridges speaks for itself: 1,000 individuals signed up for health insurance since it was founded, nearly 600 translations carried out a semester and new partnerships formed with community organizations and healthcare clinics.

Being part of the program has given volunteers life skills while helping the community outside the College gates

“In my experience in Health Bridges, either doing translations at the hospital or working with community partners, I learned a lot about collaboration, leadership and working with others—having a compassionate approach to working with everyone that you encounter. While we talk about these ideas in the classroom, we don’t get a lot of hands-on experience to really try it out,” says Seecharan.

Creating those experiences for students is an important part of the Draper Center’s mission. Located on 鶹Ů’s campus but open to the entire Claremont Colleges community, the Draper Center coordinates several community-based programs for students, faculty and staff with the aim of making meaningful and lasting connections between The Claremont Colleges and surrounding communities.

“Being a part of the Draper Center has really allowed me to expand my horizons. The staff have so much experience, so much wisdom and so much to offer,” says Blackett. “I’m coming out of college well-equipped to take on the types of things that I’d like to tackle in the healthcare sphere.”