the main entrance and up the first set of stairs down the hall,
to the left and one right, there is an office that is held in high
regard at Hunter College High School. This space belongs to one
of the most important, integral, and influential members of the
Hunter Community: Nurse Elaine Sarfati. Nurse Elaine has been the
rock of the Hunter community for about 19 years now. Her office
is unlike any other space in the building. It provides a safe, caring,
and relaxing atmosphere where kids can come when they need someone
to talk to, or just to take a breather from the hectic academic
atmosphere of the high school.
Nurse Elaine got her RN from the Jewish Hospital in Brooklyn, her
BS in Psychology at the Brooklyn College, and her Masters in Community
Health from Brooklyn College in 1992. She was born in Flushing,
Queens, and grew as the second to youngest of four children, two
sisters and one brother. Before her time at Hunter, Elaine worked
in Cardiac Rehab, Cardiac Intensive care, did research for the Down
State Medical School on the difference between the outcomes of caring
for Tuberculosis at home and in the hospital, and lastly, she was
a Public Health Nurse with the Department of Health, paying personal
visits to home-bound patients.
When asked about the impact she'd had on the students, Nurse Elaine
said that she hopes she has made a positive impact on all the students
who come into her humble sanctuary: "I hope my impactis
that they trust in adults, that they leave school and remember something
about what we've talked about over the years, that I have helped
them through times were difficult for them and times that were good."
Nurse Elaine admitted that her office is the biggest part of her
life. "Considering that I spend time getting here, spending the
time here, and going home, pretty much the whole day . . . it does
take up most of my life. But I love it. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't
do it . . . this is my second home."
Elaine has succeeded in turning her office into a secluded area,
a bit off beat from the rest of the school. Many students here at
Hunter appreciate what the nurse's office has to offer. Lindsay,
a twelfth grader at Hunter College High School described the nurses
office as: "A place that does not have any stress . . . our school
is very academic and can induce a lot of stress in students, and
going to the nurses office, I feel like it's a haven and I can relax.
It calms me down. If I'm having a bad day I can go to the nurses
office and feel a lot better." When asked about the impact that
Nurse Elaine has had on her, Lindsay replied that: "I think Nurse
Elaine has had a very strong impact on me, due to the fact that
I've known her since Elementary School . . . I know that I've had
problems with school, and outside family problems, and coming and
talking to her, has helped me dealing with problems and not, as
some would say, go crazy. She's found people for me to talk with
and to deal with my personal problems."
Nurse deals with a variety of problems on a daily basis. As I sat
waiting to interview, one young girl came in complaining about nausea
because of a strong smell from a strange spot on her binder. Once
the binder was taken out of her bag, the room filled with a potent
smell of garlic. The nurse, and her helper Kai, had to help the
girl clean out her bag and take all the paper out of her binder.
Then, the nurse prescribed her five minutes at an open window because
of the nausea caused by the stench.
The general population of the students feels compassionate about
the nurse's office. It is a really special place in the school.
Because there is no student lounge, the nurse's office often plays
the role of the lounge, because kids can sit and talk, even though
the office often gets very crowded. When asked about what the nurses
office means to her, Chelsea, a senior at Hunter College High School,
said: "When I was younger I used to come here all the time . . .
just to talk. Now, it's nice because I'm doing my service credit
here, and I can come back and see all the little kids, and it's
a comforting and friendly place." There just aren't words that can
describe the role of the Nurse's office at Hunter College High School.
We've all known her for the majority of our lives, and as we continue
on through our lives, going through high school and on to college,
Nurse Elaine will always mean something to us, and for as long as
she is at Hunter, she will continue to have visitors from all different
years of school coming back to see her. "I get to know you so well,
and your parents and siblings in some cases, and most of you stay
close to me, and that makes me feel really good. When you graduate
lots of you come back and visit. It's a very special relationship
. . . there are kids that I get very close to, and there are kids
that I never meet. But the ones who I get close to, and who are
close to me, they stay that way, and they're like my own children."
it [the nurse's office] provides a safe, trusting environment, warmth,
some food sometimes . . . some rest. A place where kids trust adults,
where kids can share with each other, anywhere they can just space
out for a few minutes. It's a place where they'll be taken care
of, in any way, either by myself or each other, rather than going
out somewhere where I don't know what would happen to then. I think
that many of the kids who come really need this place . . . I don't
even have to be here. It's not me necessarily, it's the room, the
accessibility, and the other kids being here." But Nurse Elaine
has made the room everything it is, and I, along with other students,
do not know what I would do or where I would go without out the
nurse and her office.
Hunter High School contact information:
Phone: (212) 860-1400
Address: 71 E 94th ST New York, NY 10128