The Staten Island PPS Health Equity Internship is one of many possible “first rungs” in a career ladder program, created to offer a paid opportunity for youth from underserved communities to gain on-the-job health care experience. The program trains individuals as Community Health Worker aides, or CHW aides, and places them in field-based community partner sites. When intern successfully complete the program, they are eligible for a scholarship to a federally recognized Community Health Worker Certificate offered by the College of Staten Island and funded by the Staten Island PPS. This will be an ongoing opportunity for Staten Island youth of all backgrounds.
Staten Island PPS worked with a group of community partners including charter schools, youth workforce agencies, youth coalitions, and the Northwell Health Community Health team to develop the program and assist with recruiting youth from underserved communities.
Interns range in age from 17-25 and have varied levels of work and volunteer experience and have either graduated high school, gotten their equivalency or are still in high school and looking for some exposure to the health care field and work environment. Interns identified many and varied reasons for being interested in the program. Some identified this desire was heightened by COVID-19 and vaccine hesitancy and others wanted to leverage volunteer experience directly working on pandemic response efforts. One intern identified that he witnessed the unequal treatment of disabled people, the uninsured, BIPOC people and LGBTQIA+ community members that led him to apply for the internship. Some included their own experiences of poverty, disability, a sincere desire to help others, and being inspired by family members with multiple medical conditions.
One intern said, “For someone like me with barriers, born in Brooklyn and growing up in poverty, an internship such as this can make a real difference in my life. I will gain valuable experience, meet people working in the field, and get exposure to the healthcare work environment. It will help me to understand the steps needed to achieve my desired goal and further pursue a career in healthcare.” Another stated, “Discovering this opportunity was like being struck by lightning. I felt a charge immediately and felt drawn to the promise of helping others. Being a part of my community and giving back is something I am passionate about. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself and really make a difference for those who need it.”
CHW Aide interns had to complete and pass a 4-hour virtual course which included the subjects on definitions of a Community Health Worker and their roles in the community; social determinants of health; skills, responsibilities and boundaries of CHWs; HIPAA definitions and regulations, information on the COVID-19 virus, vaccine, how it works, and protocols to stop transmission.
Interns are placed at different partner sites on Staten Island with various roles and learning experiences. Staten Island PPS has initially partnered with Central Family Life Center, Community Health Action of Staten Island, and Staten Island University Hospital Community Health Team. Central Family Life Center is a not for profit run by the First Central Baptist Church since 1979, led currently by Reverend Dr. Demetrius Carolina. The Central Family Life Center has a 10,000-foot square facility that is the only minority led community center of its kind on Staten Island. It houses many critical social service programs for the borough’s diverse residents. CHW Aide Interns will be introduced to the different programs that the Central Family Life Center houses and have the opportunity to see how the organization plans, organizes, and executes community events. Interns will assist the social media team in creating flyers for programs such as Test & Trace and for different events held.
Community Health Action of Staten Island emerged from the AIDS crisis in the 1990’s by delivering a model of care that resulted in dramatic improvement in the health of their clients. They help the community with a range of services including domestic violence interventions, harm reduction services, and operating a food pantry in Port Richmond. They also provide HIV and viral hepatitis screenings as well as on going care and disease management for the HIV/AIDS population. They also provide assistance with insurance enrollment, help with SNAP benefits and mobile health screenings. Interns working on this rotation will be assisting CHASI with all of their programs as well as helping with food distribution and mobile markets.
The mission of the Community Health team at Staten Island University Hospital is to promote the health and wellness of all Staten Island Residents. The team is deployed throughout Staten Island providing grassroots support by building trust, identifying needs, and establishing partnerships with local community-based organizations and residents. They address social determinants of health including income, housing, education/employment, legal status, and personal/family safety. The team holds local community events, encourages community conversation and provides education about COVID-19 and the vaccine. They provide COVID-19 vaccinations at pop up locations throughout Staten Island.
Paid internships can often lead to full time work and other opportunities to which youth might otherwise not be exposed or have access. The health care field continues to grow and this opportunity will provide opportunities for higher education, income and the opportunity to stay, work, and live on Staten Island. Staten Island PPS and its partners aim to provide Staten Island youth exposure to a variety of jobs in the healthcare field and to help them identify pathways to future careers as health care workers.
For more information about Staten Island PPS and the Health Equity Internship program, visit https://bit.ly/HealthEquityInternship2 or contact Mindy Mannarino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917-830-1143.