“Diabetes and heart disease and cancer don’t know skin color.”
That was one of the comments from a group of 38 students who graduated from a new community health worker certification program May 31.
The program, designed to prepare healthcare workers to work in their communities on a wholistic combination of health promotion, wellness, stress management and integrative healing resources, is a partnership between the School of Education’s Educational Policy and Community Studies department and CORE/El Centro.
The graduates who were primarily Latino or African-American not only learned new skills to help them do their jobs, but formed new relationships that bridged two of Milwaukee’s largest communities of color. Many of the speeches in Spanish used the word “somos”—“we are” in talking about the unity of the groups.
One African-American woman shared the story of how classmates reached out to her when a good friend died of cancer; other talked about their new understanding of immigration issues and how important it was for people to have healthcare workers who looked like them and spoke their language.
The classes were taught in both English and Spanish, said Marie Sandy, associate professor of educational policy and community studies, who directed the program for UWM. Graduation ceremonies reflected the diversity of graduates also, with remarks from speakers alternating between English and Spanish. Ana Paula Soares Lynch of CORE/El Centro co-directed the program.
Bader Philanthropies, Inc. and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation provided support.
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