In 2017, Enlace Chicago joined forces with other efforts to become part of a group of organizations offering a Spanish-language Community Health Worker basic college certificate program.
Organizations that participated in this effort included Promoviendo, Abogando, y Educando por la Salud (PAES), the Little Village Education Collaborative (LVEC), City Colleges of Chicago (Richard J. Daley College, The Arturo Velasquez Institute, and Malcolm X College), the Illinois CHW Association, and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The pilot program was launched to much success in Fall of 2019 with a group 13 students from Malcolm X College. The classes then moved to Arturo Velazquez Institute in January 2020.
Cristina Pérez and Cristel Paiz are members of PAES, and graduated with the program’s first cohort. They shared with us how the program has helped them with their work. For Cristina, “The program helped me feel more empathetic with the community. It reaffirmed my satisfaction with, and commitment, to the job. Cristel mentions that the program gave her a feeling of security. “We felt like we were outside the circle, and this program helped us see what was inside!”
Jessica Cruz, an instructor with the program, shared with us how the first group of students actually helped develop the Certificate program. “They contributed a lot of comments about how to improve the program that ended up being incorporated…” The program that began as a pilot in Chicago in 2019, was developed in South Suburban Community College in 2011 in English. Currently, the Spanish program is in its second year and cohort.
During the year, students attend four classes and complete a total of 80 hours of field work over 12 weeks. Cristina Perez served her 80 hours with an organization called PAWS. “I worked there directly with people,” she says. “It helped me a lot to listen to people who came in and see the impact that caring for animals had on their health.” Jessica Cruz explains that the program is trying to grow collaborations with a wide variety of organizations so that students can complete their 80 hours of field work.
Cristel says that it was not easy to go back to school. “We all have children, homes…some of us have other jobs… and we tried to help each other as much as possible.” In addition to the assigned readings, the first group had to adapt to having classes online due to the pandemic. Cruz says that one of the most notable qualities of that group was their flexibility and capacity to adapt to change. “It was admirable to see how the students were able to fit their studies together with the rest of their lives.”
The Certificate classes, which include Public Health, Epidemics, Community Health Work, and Mental Health and Nutrition, prepare participants to help the community in distinct areas, and to guide them in accessing resources. Cristina Perez says that if a person wants to help the community, she recommends this program for them. Cristel adds that there are various scholarships that applicants can apply for, which can help with the cost of the program. They both agree that programs like this are good for people like them. “We realized that we can help take care of our children, and also our community.”
If you are interested in the Basic Health Promoter Certificate Program, you can contact Ilda Hernández, PAES Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.