Growing Up With BCHD
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Catherine Wong, a senior at Redondo Union High School, poses with one of her former teachers, Karin Sato, now the Principal at Alta Vista Elementary School. The pair re-connected at Beach Cities Health District’s “Volunteer Day” in August. 

Written by Catherine Wong, BCHD Health Promotions and Communications Intern

Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) does an exceptional job of supporting the youth of the Beach Cities community. As a girl that has grown up in Redondo Beach, I have watched as BCHD has transformed lives one by one. This includes mine!  

The very first time BCHD impacted my life was in elementary school on gardening day. It wasn’t my favorite day ever: my green thumb was severely lacking, and I hated getting dirt in my fingernails. I enjoyed setting leaves on fire with magnifying glasses more than checking out the vegetables in the plant beds. However, my attitude transformed when our teacher said we were to plant a bean plant! We were required to take it home, water it, nurture it, and then bring it back for a presentation. If there was one thing I loved, it was bragging, so I abandoned my burnt leaf and magnifying glass and instead settled for my cup of dirt and bean seed. That night I dashed home, ready to water and watch over the plant. However, it didn’t work. Weeks passed by and nothing happened. When it was time to return the plants to school, I glanced over at my classmates whose plants had flourished while mine was still a sad, lonely, cup of dirt. When it rolled to my turn to present, I was extremely nervous. How does one brag about an obviously dead bean?  

This situation, while humiliating, also began my knack for problem-solving and my presentation skills. I didn’t let the fact that I had a pathetic ungrown bean plant consume me. Rather, I just moved on and made-up creative ways to explain why the plant wasn’t visible. While I may not have been the best gardener in the class, this experience provided me with strategies to survive later as an adult.  

Not all my BCHD stories end with lost gardening skills and dead plants, though! As an Asian American, I grew up eating a lot of what my classmates considered “weird” foods. I distinctly remember bringing my teriyaki eel to school and being forced to sit at a different table because it “smelled bad.” However, BCHD’s nutrition lessons and phrase “Don’t Yuck My Yum” assisted with this overwhelming “outcast-type” feeling I experienced. The first time we did a nutrition lesson, we were encouraged to try pickled radishes, which was something I was accustomed to eating. I remember my friend sitting next to me, smelling it and yelling “EW!” at the top of her lungs. The teacher, being the hero she was, noticed I was upset about this and politely asked my friend to try it before she commented on how disgusting it was. My friend slowly brought the radish to her mouth and admitted that she actually loved how it tasted. Opening my peers up to a larger food palate impacted my life as I no longer felt “weird” for the food I was consuming. BCHD allowed more children to feel accepted as well as brought more fruits and vegetables to our diets.  

BCHD has obviously encouraged growth in my childhood, but it has also been by my side since. In the wake of college admissions, I had been struggling to build my resume with major-specific activities. However, I casually searched the BCHD website as I remembered all the opportunities they offered to young people. I landed on a position entitled “Communications Intern,” I applied and immediately was given an interview. Since then, I’ve learned more than I could have possibly imagined. Not only am I given lessons on operating software and applications, I am also given hands-on experience in communicating with the public at certain events. From small things like, how to send an email, to learning how to write blog posts, BCHD and its Communications Team has prepared me with skills I’ll need in any job. They’ve graced me with knowledge I would never be able to receive elsewhere. And they’re really fun to work with, too!  

BCHD has resources and events for every age. Walk and Roll to School Day is extremely fun for elementary school students and it benefits the environment greatly. The Youth Advisory Council is an excellent way for teens to be proactive in the community they live in. And of course, volunteer opportunities and internships for rising adults are incredibly valuable. I am lucky to have grown with the District and am confident it will continue to support me as years go on.