Program helps students deal with trauma, stress at home

As Yolanda Medrano and Bobby Robertson walk into the cafeteria at J.D. Smith Middle School, students jump from their seats to greet them with hugs.

“You the man!” Robertson tells sixth-grader Angel Torres as he rushes to hug Robertson.

The Henderson-based duo works with school counselor Annetta Bonner to run after-school program Teens in Action, which runs for an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has made a lasting impact on many of the students who participate.

Eighty percent of students at the North Las Vegas school are considered low-income and receive free lunches, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Just 21 percent of students are proficient in math, compared to a 46 percent statewide proficiency rate, according to, a website that tracks school performance. Students also lag in science and reading, with a 32 percent proficiency rate for both. The statewide proficiency rate for science and reading is 57 percent and 58 percent, respectively.

Medrano runs a Henderson-based nonprofit, Healing Hearts, whose volunteers work with youth and provide other services in the Las Veags Valley.

Medrano’s focus is working with the students to address trauma or emotional and mental problems. She and Robertson began volunteering at J.D. Smith this year.

“A lot of them are broken, they don’t feel like they’re being listened to,” Bonner said. “They don’t feel like they’re loved; they don’t feel like anybody cares about them; they feel like they’re all alone. So we want to heal their hearts; we want to make them whole again.”

Medrano began this day’s program by asking students to show more love toward their parents and to demand the same love back.

“When you go home today, don’t let go of mom, don’t let go of dad. Don’t let go until they tell you they love you back,” Medrano said.

For eighth-grader Kailyn Little, the interactions with Medrano this school year have helped her at home.

“(Medrano) actually cares for us,” Little said. “Since I’ve known (Medrano), I’ve actually had a better relationship with my mom, and I’ve never had a good relationship with my mom. She helps, a lot.”

Many students who attend the after-school program say the group of students is like a family.

“Ever since (Medrano) came into that room, I’ve been calm, I’ve been happy. Lately I’ve been just in a good mood all the time,” eighth-grader Nylaya Rojas said. “And before … I would be in a horrible state. I would never get along with my mom; I would never get along with my sister or my dad.”

Program activities have included light-hearted dance parties or a group discussion about students’s anger issues or familial problems. Medrano may pull a student aside to talk to them individually.

“I know when the kids have bad energy,” Medrano said.

For Rojas, “there’s really no words to explain how much (Medrano has) done for us.”

“It’s helped me mentally,” Rojas said. “I’ve thought about killing myself … but I know how to control that, and I just think about my family. Even though sometimes stuff gets hard, I think about (suicide), and I’m like, ‘No. I’m going to do this for myself; I’m going to do this for them.’”

Medrano said the goal of Healing Hearts volunteers is to give students an outlet to channel anger or frustration, rather than them going to detention or being suspended or expelled from school.

Medrano said she hopes to expand the program to include a network of volunteers at multiple schools. For now, she’s focused on the several dozen students at J.D. Smith.

“She helps me a lot with controlling my anger and controlling my depression, my anxiety,” Rojas said. “Ever since she’s come, she’s taught me how to care, how to love and how to appreciate others.”

Contact Diego Mendoza-Moyers at or call 702-383-0496. Follow @dmendozamoyers on Twitter.

Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like