|| Home Page | Welcome | Contents | Staff | Support Us ||


Date posted:01-31-02

Hunter's Helping Hand

by Sienna Pinderhughes


Through 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."

The 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."

"Hopefully 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
Web Site:http://heimdall.hchs.hunter.cuny.edu/


© Copyright HarlemLive® 2002 All Rights Reserved

|| Home Page | Welcome | Contents | Staff ||

Back to the top