By Anthony Cook
Alabama NewsCenter Staff
Fourteen community health workers from the Birmingham area have graduated from the newly launched Path to Wellness initiative, which is creating job opportunities for historically marginalized candidates and adding needed resources into the local health care ranks.
The graduation, held at Innovation Depot in Birmingham, was the culmination of a four-month program aimed at moving participants into living-wage jobs in the health care community.
Path to Wellness is an initiative of Prosper, a Birmingham-based coalition of community, civic and business leaders committed to creating a more vibrant, racially and gender inclusive economy. Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite is chairman of the Prosper board of directors.
Prosper joined forces with health care employers, including UAB, Cooper Green hospital, Viva Health, Acclinate, ConnectionHealth and Live HealthSmart Alabama to launch the Path to Wellness Community Health Worker pilot program in April. In additional partnerships with Innovate Birmingham, ThinkData Solutions and HealthOpX, the Path to Wellness program provided unemployed or underemployed people a way to earn money while learning and serving the community with the mission of working to build a healthier community.
“The program was designed to support the participants in a well-rounded way,” said Denita Bearden, director of operations at Innovate Birmingham. “We understand there are barriers in our community that we must address in order to truly provide the opportunity for success.”
Path to Wellness community health workers received a $500 training stipend and will receive a $500 completion stipend. They also received an $18-an-hour salary, monthly health insurance stipend, free training in digital skills and professional development. Additional benefits included interviews with employers who were ready to hire, and career coaching.
“While working part-time with our employer partners, participants were able to receive direct financial support for bills such as rent, childcare and utilities,” Bearden said. “Assisting them in these areas allowed them to concentrate on completing the other requirements of the program without worrying about how to afford their bills.”
The permanent career-advancement opportunities of many of the graduates were announced at the graduation.
“My experience meeting new people, networking, learning new concepts, and being able to apply community health work during the program, and forever, is priceless,” said Karis Steele, a Path to Wellness graduate.
“Path to Wellness is helping to bridge the gaps in our community around health, wealth and wholeness,” said Dee Manyama, Prosper’s initiative director. “We’re hoping to not only lift our neighbors, but participants toward better opportunities for themselves and their families.”
The Path to Wellness graduates were Jessica Baker, Jonnera Brown, Alondra Crear, Donna Densmore, Morgan Freeman, Tamika Hatcher, Onetha Jones, Isaac Mondy, Amauri Pettaway, Alexis Reeves, Karis Steele, Sydney Taylor, Bakari Thompson and Karen Wadlington. The following graduates were offered full-time employment:
Baker, FirstSource, medical enrollment specialist.
Crear, Protective, customer service representative.
Densmore, Alethia House, community health worker.
Jones, Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, patient encounter specialist.
Reeves, UAB, clinical research data coordinator.
Steele, customer care coordinator.
Wadlington, ConnectionHealth, community health worker.
For more information about Prosper’s Path to Wellness Community Health Workers initiative, contact Angela Abdur-Rasheed at firstname.lastname@example.org.