skip to main content
caption: A sign directs students at the Seattle World School to the building's health clinic
Enlarge Icon
A sign directs students at the Seattle World School to the building's health clinic
Credit: Sarah Leibovitz/KUOW photo

‘You have to start from scratch.’ Navigators at the World School guide students through the health-care maze

The Seattle World School in the Central District is gearing up for the new school year.

Teachers are prepping for classes, lockers and classrooms are being cleaned out and readied to welcome new students.

And, at the school's health clinic, two patient navigators are preparing to help students in a different way.

When Yenifher Mendoza first arrived in Seattle, she was excited to start school. And also a little scared. It wasn't how she had imagined.

Mendoza found her footing at the Seattle World School as a student years ago. Now, she works at the same school as a patient navigator, helping students maneuver through the health-care system.

"We help with interpretation, we schedule appointments for them," Mendoza said.

caption: Seattle World School health clinic patient navigators Justin Van and Yenifher Mendoza help students and their families access medical care.
Enlarge Icon
Seattle World School health clinic patient navigators Justin Van and Yenifher Mendoza help students and their families access medical care.
Credit: Sarah Leibovitz/KUOW Photo

The school has it's own health clinic, where students can receive a variety of medical services, including dental, medical, and behavioral health services.

That's because the Seattle World School is specifically for new immigrants and refugee youth that have recently moved to the area.

"I came from Vietnam back in 2008," explained Justin Van. "Back then, I did not speak English at all. So I went to Seattle World School to catch up on my English. After that, I'd also visit Seattle World School to volunteer and you know, to get help with my homework."

Van is also a patient navigator with the school.

It can be hard learning to navigate the U.S. health-care system, Mendoza said.

"A lot of them [students] have never gone to the doctor, have never seen a dentist, have never got their eyes checked," she said. "So you have to start from scratch. You have to talk to them and explain how things work here, but also acknowledging their struggle."

Both Van and Mendoza noted their own experiences with people who helped them navigate the health-care and social services systems as new immigrants as inspiration for why they chose to become patient navigators. Their own experience also helped them as navigators.

"I feel like I can help the students, new immigrants, with the services that they need," Van said. "And because I understand the background, it's helped my job be much, much easier"

We would love to hear your feedback on our reporting