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Mayor Turner Addresses Community Health Workers Initiative Graduates

By Jillian Holden 

The Community Health Workers (CHW) Initiative, housed in the Honors College at the University of Houston, is a leading pioneer in health advocation and creative outreach and engagement, CHW celebrated Friday, Dec. 11 by awarding students who completed a 160-hour hands-on externship program focused on the communication, advocacy, and interpersonal skills essential for community health workers with a Community Health Workers certificate acknowledging their hard work and dedication.

“Beyond the knowledge that I gained from the lectures, I learned a lot about the issues at hand simply through conversations with my classmates, many of whom were neighboring community members or working professionals,” Honors College student Rooba Abousaway said. “While I came into the class already passionate about community health, the certification provided me with the tools necessary to create programs that are practical, meaningful and sustainable for the people I am serving.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fall 2020 CHW Promoters Graduation Ceremony and Community Health Education Fellowship Recognition Ceremony was held virtually via Zoom, but it was not lacking. Instead, pomp, circumstance, and University of Houston Pride was felt across the world as the webinar broadcasted the event to all corners of the globe. 

Featuring a warm welcome and introduction by Community Health Worker Initiative Director Daniel Price, opening remarks from the Mayor’s Office of Education Director Juliet Stipeche, and commencement address by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, students were conferred certificates and praise from the safety of their homes. 

“Your participation in this program means that together, we can enhance the health and resiliency of our community while honoring and including the unique mental, physical, and spiritual health needs of our diverse neighborhoods,” Mayor Turner said. “Thank you for making this decision and putting forth the effort to be a frontline health care worker during a global health care crisis.”

UH alumna and Community Health Workers Instructor Cindy Paz announced names and awarded certificates to the graduates, recognizing them for their academic achievements, especially during these unparalleled times, and celebrating their successes. 

“I want to say thank you, first and foremost, to everyone who has successfully completed this rigorous, grassroots, community-driven program to provide so many different critical resources in education to our community,” Stipeche said. “You have been a lifeline, and it has been an honor to work with everyone in this amazing program.”

In closing, Honors College faculty member and director of the CHW Training Center, Donaji Stelzig, invited graduates to join faculty and staff as a virtual community to commend their achievements as they begin their journey to change the world.