May 28, 2019
With the end of the school year upon us, we wanted to update you on the story of one special student, Isani Castro. Isani is graduating from college this week with a degree in political science and is looking forward to starting law school in the fall. For a child growing up in the South Bronx, such a trajectory isn’t easy, but Isani’s hard work, commitment, and tenacity have paid off. And she is quick to tell you that her pediatrician of 21 years, Dr. Altagracia Tolentino at Children’s Health Fund’s South Bronx Health Center, has played an important role. “I really owe a portion of my success to Children’s Health Fund, and especially Dr. Tolentino.” She not only provided the medical care Isani needed to do well in school, but “she has been so much more to me,” Isan explains. “She’s a role model.”
“I guess you could say I started to see Dr. Tolentino when I was still in my mother’s stomach because my older brother was already going to her,” Isani laughs. When Isani was just three years old, Dr. Tolentino diagnosed amblyopia, an eye condition which left untreated could have had serious and lasting consequences, even causing severe visual disability, including blindness. “Dr. Tolentino sent us to several specialists to find the very, very best treatment for me. Today I have 20/20 vision.” As Isani grew, so did her relationship with Dr. Tolentino. “She’s so easy to talk to, and I can talk to her about literally anything. I tell everyone she’s like a second mother.”
Providing access to consistent, high-quality healthcare for children living in poverty is a cornerstone of what we do at Children’s Health Fund. But healthcare without an understanding of the child’s environment isn’t enough. Isani explains “The community in the South Bronx has so few resources that Dr. Tolentino really gave me so much more than just healthcare. Like when I was anemic, she explained what foods provide iron and where to get fresh produce. She really taught me how to stay healthy.” And her impact on Isani goes even deeper: “She’s been a big influence on my life choices. It was huge for me to know a Latina woman who had become a doctor. She represented to me what I could accomplish.”
We congratulate Isani on her graduation and look forward to seeing all that she will do next. Without the support of our generous donors, Isani wouldn’t be where she is today. Let’s make sure all the Isanis out there get the care they deserve to meet their potential.