UC Merced grad driven to help make community a better place

March 22, 2010 

Enid Picart works as a Spanish-language health interpreter and is studying for medical school.

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK

Enid Picart is a young woman about town. At only 22, she's a two-term Americorps worker with a degree from UC Merced, works as a Spanish-language health interpreter and is studying for medical school.

Above everything else she does though, she simply wants to help make Merced a better place.

"I've always just wanted to help people, and have a job that makes a difference," she said.

The Stanislaus County native came to Merced in 2005 as part of the inaugural class of undergraduates at UC Merced. She quickly fell in love with the city.

During school, Picart studied under UC Merced lecturer and local researcher Stergios Roussos. With Roussos, Picart worked on a project to help preschool teachers communicate better with non-English-speaking parents. She also completed a research project that looked at local alternative medicine practices.

Roussos said those around her can feel Picart's humble determination. "When you're in her company, you're alert," he said. "She pays attention. And she's always looking for ways she can be helpful."

Before she graduated last May, Picart took a job with Healthy House as a Spanish-language interpreter. Now she spends several hours a week attending doctors' appointments with local residents. She makes sure they understand their ailment and the prescription for a cure.

"Many people think (interpreting) looks easy and is easy to do, but it really requires a higher level of thinking," said Tatiana Vizcaino-Stewart, training director and supervisor at Healthy House. "One of the things I really like about Enid is that she is a careful observer. She's a very polite, very respectful, very sincere person."

Most of Healthy House's 30 translators work part-time, including Picart, Vizcaino-Stewart said.

Yet Picart still finds time for a second job with the Americorps as its representative to the Building Healthy Communities project. (Her first jaunt with Americorps came when she was 17 years old and worked on a project with the Stanislaus Literacy Council.)

The year-old Healthy Communities project is funded through The California Endowment, which grants monies to needy communities. Up to $9 million will be spent over the next three years to test ideas for creating healthier communities in South Merced, Planada, Franklin-Beachwood and Le Grand.

Though the eventual programs are still in the planning stages, the project's organizers have already identified the top three priorities local residents would like to see changed about their communities -- reduce violence, create youth programs and stimulate economic development.

By June, the group hopes to finish an "action plan," which will be sent to The California Endowment for the future funding, said Monica White, executive director of the Merced County Health Care Consortium.

"I'm not the expert on what it is to live in Planada, Le Grand or South Merced. Enid is not the expert on what it is to live there," White said. "The key is to decide who the local leaders are that you need to connect with, understand and respect. Enid has the courage you need to get out there and talk to people and network."

This coming week, Picart will help host a basketball tournament in Le Grand to encourage youth programming and help younger people learn about the endowment's project. She admits that she's most interested in the Building Healthy Communities' emphasis on youth development.

"Health insurance and health care for our youth and children is vital," she said. "I see the connection that healthier children will lead to better education, which will lead to and hopefully promote better jobs in the future."

Despite the workload, Picart spends her evenings and free time studying for the MCAT, the exam required for admittance to most medical schools. She may have a leg up on the competition, given that she helped create In-Touch Community Health Initiative at UC Merced, which aimed to bridge the gap between UC Merced students and the community. The group hopes to someday found a student-run health clinic at the campus.

A first generation college student, and the youngest of four girls, Picart has always found herself drawn to meaningful, hard work. And she hopes to don the blue and gold again someday -- Picart is applying for admission to the University of California's medical campuses.

Ultimately, she hopes to help patients in Merced, or somewhere like it.

"I've been in Merced ever since my first day at school. I don't really want to leave," Picart said. "I'm a Valley girl, let's just put it that way."

Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.