Members of the second graduating class for ONE|NB’s CHW Pre-Apprenticeship program pose for a photo.
Stephen Ide/ONE Neighborhood Builders
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By Stephen Ide
ONE Neighborhood Builders
PROVIDENCE — Rebecca Morena left Nicaragua a year ago to escape political persecution. In doing so, she left behind any hope of a health career in her home country.
She started an uncertain new life with her family in Rhode Island. That is until a friend told her about ONE Neighborhood Builders’ Community Health Worker Pre-Apprenticeship Program.
“She’s my God-send,” she said in Spanish of her friend.
Rebecca was one of 12 people who graduated on Thursday, June 1, 2023, from ONE|NB’s second Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The program offers five weeks of training, providing a pathway into a career as a registered Community Healthcare Worker.
Through interpreter and ONE|NB Community Engagement Specialist Michael Nina, Rebecca told her story while fighting back tears. She offered her thanks for the program, its facilitators, other participants, and mentors and others who are allowing her to start a new career in community health work. She expressed appreciation for having an interpreter who allowed her to learn, communicate with others, and ultimately, graduate.
“This is the beginning of my life,” she said. “All of my dreams.”
Kenya Lynn Fullen, another of the graduates, spoke about how, despite participants having different backgrounds and not all speaking the same language, they all agreed they are part of one community, and that they it to be a healthy community. She said her goal is to get a storefront and start her own business in case management.
Jennifer Hawkins, ONE|NB’s President and Executive Director congratulated the graduates and reiterated to them that the program gives them an opportunity to pursue health careers or other employment.
Participants were shown a video that highlighted why community health workers do this type of work.
The program is the first of its kind to be registered with the Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training. It is supported by trainers from organizations across Providence. Each organization has expertise in skills and capacities critical to a career in community health, including motivational interviewing, harm reduction, and mental health first aid, among others. House of Hope, United Way 2-1-1, Project Weber RENEW, RIPIN, Providence Public Library provided trainings for the program. Federal Hill House, Providence Housing Authority, Providence Community Health Centers, Olneyville Neighborhood Association, and Crossroads Rhode Island, served as mentors.
The program is designed to train knowledgeable frontline workers who are also neighbors. Community Health Workers play a pivotal role in communities because they understand community context and provide a bridge between people and the health and social services organizations in their community. This improves overall health and quality of life.
Upon graduation, cohort members receive a $1,000 stipend for their time in the program, along with a certificate of completion and the opportunity to enroll in a registered CHW Apprenticeship program.
Rhode Island State Representative Enrique Sanchez presented citations to each of the graduates. He thanked ONE|NB for the program and for the work it does in the community, and he acknowledged that the state faces socio-economic challenges, including the high cost of housing. He praised programs like the Pre-Apprenticeship Program because it offers an alternative to people who want careers in community health, but might not be able to afford or access higher education.
Graduates in the latest class included: Kenya Lynn Fullen, Isis Garcia-Fargas, Robert Harris, Yadira Lopez, Jenny Mercado, Lilliam Morales, Myra Morales, Rebecca Moreno, Jihoon Park, Santa Payano, Joshua Rodriguez, Camille Shea.