Scavo Celebrates Opening of Iowa’s First School Clinic

Nolden Gentry stands next to a sign welcoming people to the dental clinic named in his honor at Scavo High School.

Nolden Gentry stands next to a sign welcoming people to the dental clinic named in his honor at Scavo High School.

Rarely does a dental office draw a crowd or inspire enthusiasm the likes of which were on display yesterday at Scavo High School’s brand spanking new Nolden Gentry Dental Clinic. Granted, the occasion was a ceremonial floss-cutting that officially opened a facility that’s been seeing patients for two weeks. Toothaches and cavities weren’t the causes of the SRO waiting room, happily. But the widespread joy and satisfaction were genuine, not ceremonial. The Scavo Community Center is a realized dream shared by many stakeholders, sponsors and partners. There are 26 of them listed on the sign that marks the entrance to not only the dental clinic, but a medical clinic too (see the list below).

Representatives from Delta Dental and Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, the principal benefactors that made the dental clinic possible, were on hand to wield the giant scissors that made it official. So was Gentry, the first African-American elected to the Des Moines School Board and a long-time member of the Delta Dental and Mid-Iowa Health Foundation boards of directors.

While the hoopla was happening one man in particular who could hardly believe this day had finally come stood back in a corner and let it all sink in. Principal Rich Blonigan came to Scavo in 2008. “I’m not sure I envisioned anything quite like all of this,” he said on Tuesday afternoon, waving an arm down the 4th floor corridor at Central Campus that already included a food pantry and a daycare center before the new healthcare facilities completed the school’s comprehensive community service center. “Our mission and approach to working with at-risk kids has dramatically changed. Agencies and organizations that used to work separately are now working together to make great things happen. Here at Scavo, besides academics, we are helping our students with all aspects of how life works.”

Tuesday’s occasion was actually a two-for-one grand opening. After the silver ribbon of dental floss was snipped on one side of the office a red one across the lobby was cut to formally open the medical clinic that is operating under the auspices of Primary Healthcare. PHC is a nonprofit community health center. According to Lyn Marchant, Scavo’s Community Service Site Coordinator, the medical side will see patients either by appointment or on a drop-in basis, and provide services ranging from treatment of illness to physical exams required for students participating in interscholastic athletics.

“And eventually we hope to make its services available to students from all over the district,” she said.

The opening of the medical and dental clinic are big parts of Scavo’s work to become a “full service” school, which also includes a day care center for teen parents and a food pantry sponsored by the Food Bank of Iowa.

Since we last visited on the day when the dental clinic received its first patients some finishing touches have been added. Combination signage/artwork from Sticks Gallery now hangs on the waiting room walls. There is a plaque in Gentry’s well-deserved honor. And though the office won’t normally be as crowded as it was yesterday, it looked good like that just this once. The people it’s there to serve might not be as plentiful or look as pleased but they are glad it’s there, make no mistake. Asked if his students are as excited about the latest developments at Scavo as everyone yesterday was, Blonigan had this to say: “Some people still have a stigma about Scavo. But every single time we bring a student or a parent up here to see what we have to offer in terms of wraparound service they light up. It’s like (DMPS Chief of Schools) Matt Smith always says. ‘Scavo is the heart, not the art; the heart and science of what we do.’”

Gentry, the dental clinic’s namesake, served for 42 combined years on the Delta Dental of Iowa board and the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation board, and 22 years on the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation board. In addition, he was the first African American to serve on the Des Moines Public School board from 1970-1983. He continues to serve on the boards of Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation, University of Iowa Foundation and Bridges of Iowa.

Scavo Community Service Center Partners include:

  • Food Bank of Iowa
  • Delta Dental
  • Mid Iowa health Foundation
  • Primary Health Care
  • Des Moines Health Center
  • United Way of Central Iowa
  • Iowa State Extension
  • Adventure Learning Center
  • Children and Families of Iowa
  • Iowa Workforce Development
  • Community Youth Concepts
  • Unity Point
  • State Iowa Historical Building
  • Hoyt Sherman Place
  • Des Moines Bike Collective
  • Orchard Place Child Guidance Center
  • Transformations Group
  • Planned Parenthood of the Heartland
  • Iowa Legal Aid
  • Polk County Decategorization
  • Visiting Nurse Services
  • Woodward Community Services
  • Des Moines Police Department
  • Polk County Juvenile Court Services
  • PACE Juvenile Center
  • Iowa College Aid Network

Video of Iowa’s First School Clinic Grand Opening

Photos from Scavo’s Clinic Open House

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