How wellness centers help troubled S.F. students

By: Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer

As a dyslexic, African American male growing up in San Francisco's notorious Hunters Point neighborhood, the odds were far greater that Evander Williams would drop out, die or go to jail than graduate high school.

Well over half the city's black males don't make it to graduation day on time, according to state data.

Williams did, collecting his diploma from Thurgood Marshall Academic High School last week.

The 18-year-old credits his family, his faith and friends. But he also credits the support he found behind the door at the end of his high school's first-floor hallway.

The small sign on the outside simply says "Wellness Center."

Inside, Williams, like hundreds of other students, found courage, comfort and the mental, physical and emotional support it took to get him through the really bad days.

The center, one of 15 such offices at city high schools, offers students mental health support, reproductive services, referrals to physicians, a school nurse, and staff members who are there to listen.

"It was hard, though," Williams said. "I had a lot of challenges."
Hard is an understatement.