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School health aide recognized
By MARY WESTON - Staff Writer
Article Launched: 03/26/2008 12:04:35 AM PDT

Tuesday morning, Belva Sarten was in the nurse's office at Wyandotte Avenue School helping students.
One boy came in to get something from the clothes room, two students waited outside, and one boy was lying down while Belva called his parents and told them he wasn't feeling well.

The Engage Institute in Galax, Virginia recently selected Sarten, a health aide with Oroville City Elementary School District, as an outstanding school support person and included her in the book, "Building Better Schools by Engaging Support Staff." She was nominated by school board member Kathy White.

In the book, authors Sam Bartlett and Vie Herlocker show support staff how to become a critical link to their schools' success by using proven customer service strategies. The stories of 21 employees, selected from nationwide nominations, demonstrate how to use these strategies to make a difference in their schools and communities.

The school district created Sarten's position when the school board realized attendance was down because students were at home with head lice. White said Sarten was the only school district employee who applied for the job, and she has been an inspiration.

"Her love for the students has done more than improve their attendance," White said.

White likes what Sarten says: "When you are clean, have new shoes and nice clothes, and when you don't have to worry about lice, you stand a little taller. Your confidence level goes up."

Sarten is the part-time health aide at four schools, including Wyandotte, Stanford Avenue, Oakdale and Bird Street. She provides health services at all four schools, educating students about head lice, hygiene and health issues. She also checks them for head lice and sometimes helps them get rid of lice, so they can stay in school.
She makes home calls in the afternoon.

"It's very satisfying because you're helping make someone feel good and be happy and stay in school," Sarten said. "I love kids and I love to make them happy. If they are clean and healthy and in school, they are happy."

Sarten began a program where the district and teachers give students soap, shampoo and other personal hygiene products. She approached the school board to ask if they would consider donating unused toiletries from their vacations.

When Sarten visits homes, she is able to leave supplies for students. She spends 20 hours a week working with families in their homes, sometimes even helping get rid of head lice.

She also distributes shoes through the Oroville Police Department's Shoes That Fit Program. So far this year, 180 pairs of shoes have gone to students, along with 167 pairs of socks.

"I love that job," Sarten said. "I love the looks on kids faces when they get new shoes. They are so proud."

She also gives new coats to students that have been donated by teachers. Teachers and other school staff also give all their children's clothing that is still in good condition to Sarten, and she keeps it in a school office.

Sarten has a sense of humor about her job, but at the same time she is compassionate, according to the book's section on Engaging Support Staff.

She understands the embarrassment a family and student feels when they have lice. She respects students and their families.