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.

Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like