Maryvale Hospital uses education to build community

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- At just 4 months old, little Darian Saenz Villegas might not know it, but he is giving his parents an incentive to finish high school.

“It is because of him. He is the one that gives me the energy to keep on working,” said father Oscar Saenz. “Try to give him my all and for that I have to work hard.”

But incentive alone is not enough for these young parents.

“I have a job already in the morning, where I have to get up at 2:30," Saenz said.

Besides taking care of Darian, mother Aylin Villegas also works, and that makes attending high school a challenge.

“They don't know how hard it is to wake up every middle of the night, feeding the baby, the baby getting sick, having to come to school every day," Villegas said.

But thanks to a unique community partnership, young parents like Saenz and Villegas are finding a healthy dose of support at Abrazo Maryvale Hospital.

“Every hospital claims to be a community hospital. Maryvale Hospital is a community hospital,“ said CEO Crystal Hamilton.

Hamilton showed 3TV how the hospital's former gift shop is now giving students the tools they need to succeed.

“We do breast-feeding classes. We do things as far as making sure that parents are comfortable with parenting skills," Hamilton explained.

A partnership with South Phoenix Healthy Start provides new parent support, but that is really just part of the equation. There is also a partnership with Pinnacle Charter School which has turned this space into a high school classroom.

“So with that partnership with Pinnacle, we were able to bring on a site coordinator as well as access to computers and Internet access so that they are able to complete their education," said Nicole Neal with Healthy Start.

And the program works around parents' schedules.

“So say they do have to take their babies to the doctor or they have to go to a prenatal visit, they are able to take that time off, go take care of their visit and then come back, start right up where they were with flexibility so they can get their classes done," Neal said.

It is perfect for Villegas.

“When my baby is sick, I can miss school. I don't have to be worrying about, I have to go to school at this time. And I catch up way faster on my credits here," she said.

It's all happening in a hospital which is helping build a stronger community one family at a time.

“Every time I walk by here, I get a smile on my face,” Hamilton said, ”because it really is something that I feel that is investing in the future of not just our hospital but our community.“

Although the program at Maryvale focuses on new parents, it is open to all Pinnacle students.

There is an on-site coordinator and lots of support from fellow students as well. There is also a WIC office and AHCCCS office at the hospital.