Innovative New School Will Double as Free Health Clinic

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San Francisco pediatrician Priscilla Chan believes that a good education should promote both healthy minds and bodies. The Harvard graduate and wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will be opening a non-profit school in East Palo Alto, California this fall which will not only provide free education for students, but free healthcare for families.

CNN reports that The Primary School will enroll children as young as three and provide free physical and mental health services to both students and their parents. The school has also announced a partnership with East Palo Alto’s Ravenswood Family Health Center, and has begun the enrollment process for full-time students.

In a rare interview, Chan told The San Jose Mercury News that she was inspired to start The Primary School by her days mentoring children in low income neighborhoods. As a college student, Chan volunteered at the Harvard-run Franklin Afterschool Enrichment program, tutoring children of the college’s dining hall staff, as well as children living in nearby public housing projects.

Chan recalled the helplessness she felt when the children she mentored were mugged after school, or injured at home. "I realized that my homework help was going to completely be futile if these kids couldn't be healthy, safe and happy in the place that they lived," she explained. "That really drives a lot of what I decided to do in my life and career."

Chan hopes The Primary School will provide a safe and healthy space for young children to learn and grow. She told the Mercury News that while she has long wanted to help improve educational opportunities for children, having her first child gave that goal a sense of urgency. "Before I had Max, I had all these experiences that gave me what I felt like was a strong empathy for how important it is for children to have all these opportunities and how much families want to invest and want the best for their kids," she said. "But after I had Max, I feel that every day."