Physical access leads to dropping of barriers for young athletes

Published 7:00 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

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Recognizing a need to lift barriers between students and being involved in athletics, a number of organizations came together to make free physicals for youth a success this past Saturday.

Hosted by Althing Clinic, 25 physicals were given Saturday in an effort to help make it easier for students to be involved in high school athletics, something that all those involved know can be beneficial for students.

“We have a lot more students wanting to participate in activities and athletics,” said Kristi Beckman, Council for Educational Equity Integration Collaboration Coordinator at Austin Public Schools. “Research shows students who are active, engaged and involved tend to be more successful.”

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Saturday’s clinic quickly maxed out at the 25 threshold for students 12 to 18 years old, with more included on a waiting list. The general exam, a requirement to participate in high school sports, covered a variety of areas looking at things like the muscular and skeletal system of the students as well as family history, particularly when it comes to heart health.

“We want to make sure there aren’t some genetic heart conditions,” said Althing Lead Nurse Practitioner Therese Searle, one of two practitioners on site at the clinic which is located on the Riverland Community College campus.

The idea of creating this event began as a conversation of reducing barriers for students to be a part of activities and aside from Althing and Austin Public Schools, it involved Mower County Cultural Liaison Nitaya Jandragholica and Riverland Admissions Specialist Miguel Garate, the Austin Human Rights Commission supplying thank you cards for the students to sign as well as others who were a part of the conversation.

“We were looking at what else could we address that was time sensitive  as we progressed through the year,” Jandragholica said. “We were aware that the school district has sort of a super power with success coaches to really supersede and view every specific need.”

Through the success coaches, organizers realized that one such barrier was physicals, which included some of its own barriers including cost and even just being able to make it to an opportunity to get a physical.

“Why are we not seeing more students participate in sports?” Jandragholica said. “What would be the impediment? It was pretty clear to us upstream that it was physicals.”

With help from the APS success coaches, the partners were able to better identify those students who could be helped through Saturday’s clinic.

“It’s eliminating as many barriers as we can,” Beckman said.

Organizers said that the success of Saturday’s clinic highlighted a need that not only was there, but that is increasing in importance.

“I think the need has been growing over the past few years,” Beckman said. “We do have access to some great community partners who provide some free physicals as well. As the need grows, our success coaches have been noticing more and more kids looking for options to meet this need.”

Saturday was also another opportunity for people to learn more about what Althing does. Opening just about a year and a half ago, the clinic itself is about reducing barriers and making sure everybody has equitable access to health care.

“I think it’s been received wonderfully,” Searle said. “I think a lot of people don’t know we are here and that we’re another option for the community.”

Services at Althing are provided to people who both have and do not have insurance, provide low-cost services and can even create payment plans for people.

They also accept walk-ins as necessary.

“Bringing the students and the families in (Saturday), we want them to know we’re available ongoing for additional needs they may have,” Searle said.