Carving a Role to Serve Beyond the School Fence

mh_article10Raised in San Fernando not far from El Centro de Amistad (ECDA), Board Member David Moreno started working in Pacoima in 2006 while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a social welfare option. He has invested 11 years of his career in the Pacoima community and doesn’t see this changing any time soon. David, who has a master’s in social work, serves as Pacoima Charter Elementary School’s social worker, overseeing eight interns and one assistant who provide mental health to 300 students out of 1,400 students enrolled. Along with his team, he works on student attendance, healthy attendance habits and barriers to attendance, as well as addresses crisis intervention and parent involvement. One important function is to link parents to resources in Pacoima since the families in this community are in high need for basic items like food, clothing and shelter. He also connects them to where mental health services are offered and that’s where ECDA comes in. He first learned about ECDA when the school and the organization established a memorandum of understanding to provide mental health services to children at risk. Finding comfort in the work he does, David was asked to join the ECDA board this year and found himself pushed out of his comfort zone. He is learning to carve a different role for himself, one that takes him outside of the school grounds to an advisory position. “It’s a different perspective as a board member. I’m a doer and do the work. As an advisor, we set the direction of the agency and it’s a different skill set that I’m learning,” said David, who is finding out about the Department of Mental Health contracts and reviewing the organization’s financials. As a practitioner, David provides the board with invaluable insight on therapeutic and school-based settings. David hopes to impact the organization during his tenure by expanding programs and providing more services for students. “We do an amazing job as an agency and I appreciate the work even more now that I’ve seen the other side.”