We had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk with Ceres Unified School District's Health Clerk and Hazel Health Initiator Cody Madera. Cody has an extensive background in healthcare and an enthusiastic passion for helping students.
As an Initiator Cody is responsible for connecting students (with guardian permission) to Hazel Health visits when they need medical care. Cody has connected over 1,000 students to Hazel Health visits! This is a huge milestone, and we are so grateful for his partnership and dedication.
As we spoke with Cody, it became clear that his priority is building trust with his students so he can support them best. By gaining their trust, he has the opportunity to form deeper relationships and recommend Hazel to students who need an extra level of care.
Check out more of our inspiring conversation with Cody:
Q: What is your background? Could you walk us through your journey to becoming a Health Clerk at Ceres?
A: I began to develop a passion for the medical field in high school through an EMT class provided by my school. I segued into the corporate world for about 6 years after high school and before my son was born. Once he was born, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to stay home with him. Once he was in school, I returned to get my Medical Assistant (MA) in Phlebotomy and Pharmacy Tech EKG. I took every class they offered within 3 months because I was so excited to get back into healthcare. MA work involved a lot of travel, and although I loved being exposed to all kinds of different things, I didn’t really love traveling.
In 2020, my wife got a job offer in Santa Rosa, so we sold our house and moved! We were interviewing daycares for our son. After one of the interviews, the Director asked me, “Would you be interested in working here with us?” and I was like, “Really?!” She told me that I was clearly great with kids and that I had the medical background that they were looking for.
Soon after, my mother’s health started to decline, and she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Toward the end, I became her primary caregiver, which was hard, but I am thankful that I had the background and knowledge to care for her properly. After she passed, I took some time away from work to regroup with my family and ultimately decided I wanted to be in the medical field.
I got a job with The Department of Education during COVID-19, helping with testing, monitoring, and documentation. As COVID started to improve, the county began to use MAs as subs for Health Clerks, and they were super impressed by the medical knowledge that we brought to the health offices. A permanent Health Clerk position opened up, and I went back and forth about applying and eventually did. It was one of the biggest application turnouts; everyone wanted this job. Luckily, I had already had the opportunity to prove myself and got the job!
Once I became a permanent employee, I was trained in the Hazel Health program, learned how to be a Hazel Health Initiator, and spent the summer learning about what Hazel does. I kept thinking, “Wow, this is incredible!”
Fast forward to the start of the school year, I was in a brand new site with junior high students. I was a little intimidated as I was used to working with younger kids or adults. I had gained so much knowledge on what Hazel could do. I knew that with kids, it’s not always just a cut or scrape. Sometimes, there is more going on beneath the surface. I challenged myself to build bonds and trust with these students to teach them how to advocate for themselves.
I started to build a safe environment for them. Especially for a lot of the junior high boys, they had never had a male Health Clerk before. These boys were at a monumental point in their lives, and I felt I could be a positive role model. I didn’t want kids just to come in and out of my office. I really wanted to understand the whole picture.
Q: What was it like to train as an Initiator for Hazel?
A: I was really excited to meet the providers. I looked through all the resources and wanted to see how far we could push what we could do. I was determined to use it because I knew the district had invested in the program with good intentions. The first few visits were nerve-wracking, not because of Hazel, but because I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. After the first few visits, I noticed more and more kids were coming to me. They had heard from their friends how Hazel could help, so there was already a sense of trust.
It blew up, and I was constantly so busy! I had kids dealing with everything from headaches and menstrual cramps to really heavy emotional needs. Once I got the kids to trust me, I brought in Hazel's providers to get them another level of care they otherwise would have never received.
Many of these kids don’t have insurance, have never seen a doctor, and have parents who can’t afford common medication such as Tylenol. Because of this, kids felt like they were a burden for dealing with something as simple as a cough. Especially after COVID, there was a bit of a stigma for anyone who was sick. But as we all know, kids get regular colds, and with Hazel, we can provide medication and care for these kids. We saved over 3,000 classroom hours from Hazel's visits. That is an incredible statistic to me. That is why we do what we do!
Mental health is another crucial thing that I focus on with the help of Hazel. Junior high is a scary time! It’s important to me to get to know the kids and to take the time to understand how I can help them to the fullest extent. Hazel brought a missing piece to the puzzle.
Q: How do you build trust with the students?
A: I love using costumes as an icebreaker. I dress up for every holiday. It shows them that even though I work at the school, I am a person. I have a kid of my own, siblings, and I was even a teenager long ago, so I’ve been there. I take any opportunity to connect, even if it’s just saying "hi" and making my presence known before they need me. I try to remember little things about each kid, so they feel known in a sea of over 500 students.