Whittier Street Health Center Ensures the Community is Prepared for the Return to In-person Learning

  • August 25, 2021

Back to school season is in full swing and while most parents are asking questions about how their children will be kept safe from Covid-19, many parents are searching for answers as to how they will pay for their children’s school supplies. The average cost of providing a student with everything they need for the school year is $268, up from $248 last year. That is why on Friday, August 20th, Whittier Street Health Center in partnership with GE Aviation, held our Back to School BBQ. The Back to School BBQ has been a Whittier tradition since 2003, but unfortunately we were unable to hold the event last year due to the restrictions put in place to protect people from the coronavirus. Since we began hosting this event have given out on average 700 backpacks each year for a total of roughly 14,700 backpacks in total. We are thrilled that we are able to host this event to provide the students in our community with materials needed to ensure they are ready for the return to in-person learning.

Everyone had to contend with the sudden changes that were implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the children may have had the most to contend with. According to a report by, “3 out of every 10 parent stated that their child was, “experiencing harm to [their] emotional or mental health,” with 45% citing the separation from teachers and classmates as a “major issue.” The structural and social aspects provided by schools are so vital to a child’s well-being so it is not surprise that removing them from this environment caused distress, but it is of the utmost importance that these issues are address before they get out of hand. A Whittier pediatrician noted, “Before the pandemic, we used to see maybe 1-2 patients reporting suicidal thoughts in a month, now we’re seeing 1-2 a week.” This increase is startling, but not unexpected when you consider all the ways children rely on school to fulfill their social, safety and psychological needs.

The hope is that a return to in-person learning will help address these issues that reared their head during the pandemic, but that still does not address the issues that many families run into when it comes to providing their children with school supplies. Whittier’s patient population consists of a diverse group of individuals; 92% of them live below 200% of the US poverty level, additionally 83% of them live in public housing. That is why events like our Back to School BBQ are so important because it offers families a refuge from having to constantly worry about their finances. This year with the incredibly generous contributions from GE Aviation we will be giving away over 500 backpacks filled with school supplies including folders, pencils, pens and spiral notebooks to children up to the age of 17.

This is one of the most rewarding events on our calendar and we love that our partners at GE Aviation feel the same way. One of their representatives said, “The GE Lynn Asian Pacific American Forum has been a proud partner of the Whittier Street Health Center for the past decade, and the annual Back to School BBQ has always been one of our favorite events. We believe that a strong education paves the way to a brighter future, and we hope to equip children with the essential resources to learn and reach their full potential by supporting community events like the Back to School BBQ.” We are exhilarated to host this event once again and doing so with a partner that is as committed to enriching their community as we are.

A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).