APU's Neighborhood Wellness Center

by Danielle Vanaman '06

Where can you find the students and faculty of APU working hand in hand with the citizens of Azusa? Look no further than the Neighborhood Wellness Center. The center, which recently celebrated five years of partnership with the local community, provides health and prevention services to meet the needs of Azusa. Since it opened in 1998, the Neighborhood Wellness Center has received more than 3,000 visits to its drop-in nursing center, and has provided more than 800 people with health services through local fairs, churches, supermarkets, and retirement homes.

At its heart, the center is a partnership that benefits both sides of the equation. Local citizens receive valuable health benefits, while students from APU’s School of Nursing gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting. The center also partners with the Azusa Unified School District to provide parenting classes for high school students, and works closely with the American Cancer Society, as well as several other local organizations.

“Our goal is to educate people and empower them to make healthier lifestyle choices, while providing access to resources,” said Susan McKeever Smith, MN, director of the Neighborhood Wellness Center and associate professor in APU’s School of Nursing.

The idea for the center was born during the 1990 inauguration of former APU President Richard Felix, Ph.D. Smith was struck when a local community member raised the question of how the university planned to use its resources to better the city of Azusa. Unable to forget the challenge presented by his words, Smith partnered with students in her community health nursing course to perform an assessment of the city’s health needs and develop a proposal that eventually grew into the Neighborhood Wellness Center.

Now, five years later, the center is celebrating a rich history of community partnership and service. In honor of the anniversary, a special event took place Thursday, November 6, at 4 p.m. at the Azusa Senior Center on Dalton Avenue, across the street from the Neighborhood Wellness Center. Campus Pastor Chris Brown opened the event with prayer, and speakers included Susan McKeever Smith and Azusa Mayor Cristina Cruz-Madrid. Several students from APU’s School of Nursing were present, as were many members of the Azusa community whose lives have been enriched by the center’s services.