Leaders from all over Wayne County recently came together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Wayne Initiative for School Health Centers. The WISH centers are located in Brogden Middle School, Wayne Academy, Dillard Middle School, Mount Olive Middle School, Southern Wayne High School and Goldsboro High School and provide students with on-site medical care and counseling from qualified nurse practitioners free of charge.

The WISH centers began in the early 1990s, after the Goldsboro City Board of Education learned that Goldsboro High School had seen 50 students get pregnant the previous year, said WISH Chairman Dr. David Tayloe.

"The board decided it was going to do something about it, and we started looking around other schools," he said. "One of the board members said, 'Why don't we just hire our own health educator and put them in the school?'"

The board agreed with that sentiment and hired Sharon Vann, who went on to reduce teen pregnancy at the school by 50 percent in less than two years of work.

Having proven that school-based health services could make a significant impact, the WISH program expanded from there, using a wide range of grants sought out by director Phyllis Hill and the backing of Wayne UNC Health Care to eventually grow WISH to the size it is today.

William Vann, principal at Wayne Academy, had a story of his own to tell about how WISH saved his life -- even though he was not even a student at the time.

"One day while I was teaching, I noticed that I had a dull pain in my stomach, but being stubborn and a man, I refused to go to the doctor," he said. "So, I went to our WISH center to get their opinion, and their opinion was that I was to go immediately to my family physician."

He did just that, and before he knew it, Vann was whisked into emergency surgery. 

His appendix had ruptured -- a condition that could have killed him had the WISH staff not been so quick on the uptake.

The anniversary celebration also included testimony from Crystal Daniels, a Wayne County educator and the parent of a former WISH student, and Rashad Hinnant, a former WISH student himself who returned to Goldsboro after graduating college and now teaches at Goldsboro High. 

Each recounted the ways that WISH had made things easier for them. For Daniels, having a WISH center in her son's school made getting him the dietary help he needed much simpler, especially given the time crunch teachers are so frequently under. 

Hinnant recalled how WISH made him feel at home as a student at Goldsboro Middle School, which later became Wayne Academy.

"The center was a place you could go if you were not feeling well, if you needed someone to talk to, just an encouraging word," he said. "Oftentimes as teachers, we talk to our students and work with them, however there are still other deficiencies and other things our students need assistance with."

Janie Jaberg, president and CEO of Wayne UNC Health Care, gave closing remarks, where she commended Hill for her dedication to the program, presenting her with flowers and thanking her for her tireless work.

Jaberg focused on the impacts that WISH could have if implemented across the entire school system and impressed upon the audience the importance of finding funding for the program.

She told several stories of the ways that WISH has helped individual students who found themselves in situations that may have never been addressed otherwise, including a particularly harrowing example of a WISH nurse practitioner who uncovered a case of severe child abuse during a routine examination.

"Imagine if that child did not have WISH," she said.



Principal Dr. William Vann shares a story about his experience with the WISH program during his welcome speech Thursday night at Wayne Academy during the 20th anniversary of the centers.

Principal Dr. William Vann shares a story about his experience with the WISH program during his welcome speech Thursday night at Wayne Academy during the 20th anniversary of the centers.

“I think this program solidifies a partnership we have had with Nash UNC Health Care for decades,” said Trent Morhbutter, vice president for instruction and chief academic officer for Nash Community College. “I think this program also speaks to the quality of graduates we produce.”