| Amy Porter
CHESTER – The Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Committee (SHAEC) is offering a free in-person informational session for Gateway Hilltown residents interested in Holyoke Community College’s (HCC) Community Health Worker program on June 21 in Chester.
The session will be led by Liv Anna Homstead, HCC’s special project coordinator for the Foundations of Health Program.
SHAEC Program Director Michele Kenney said this program, which is funded by a CARES Act grant, is an opportunity for people interested in getting involved in health care. “There is a health care shortage. There are openings now in the Hilltowns for people in that profession,” she said.
Community health workers (CHWs) are public health paraprofessionals who play crucial roles in promoting and supporting the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. They have a close understanding of the communities they serve. Through outreach, assessment, care coordination, health education, and advocacy, CHWs work to address health inequities and provide access to care.
The CHW Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program offers free tuition, dedicated support and advising, nine college credits which can be applied to a degree, and a $5,000 stipend for students enrolled in the program.
The program aligns with requirements for the MA State Certification for CHWs.
Following completion of the pre-apprenticeship training, a 2,000-hour CHW registered apprenticeship in a paid full-time position working in a children, youth, and family program at Behavioral Health Network is offered, which provides skill-building, on the job training, and an hourly wage. The apprenticeship must be completed in one year and may extend into an ongoing job. A $7,500 stipend is provided to apprentices.
To be eligible for the program, interested people must have a high school diploma or HiSet/GED and meet eligibility for college-level English from a previous college transcript, or take the HCC pavement test. Familiarity with Google Suite is also necessary, as much of the program is online. Kenney said that SHAEC can assist Hilltown students with these requirements.
“For people who didn’t quite finish their GED, we can help with that, as well as with the English test. Because it’s an online program, students also need to be familiar with Google Suite. We offer free classes to help. We want to have people academically ready, and their computer skills up to par,” Kenney said, adding that the program starts in the fall, so there is time for students to prepare for it.
Kenney said there are also grants available for internet access, and some Chromebook available to loan for students through SHAEC. “Many GED students we’ve found lack computers. If people are trying to take college classes just using their phones, it’s an uphill battle. We were able to access Chromebook for student use for these programs,” she said.
U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, CORI/SORI and drug testing clearance are also required to enroll in the program.
For people who have a passion for community health work and working with children, youth, and families, attending an information session is the first step.
“It has a lot of elements to it. It could really help someone get a lot of practice and expertise while getting paid and learning,” Kenney said, adding, “If people are at all interested in getting into the healthcare field, it would definitely be worthwhile in checking out this program.”
Students must pre-register at www.SHAEC.org for the in-person Info session on June 21 at 6 p.m. in the SHAEC classroom at 26 Main St. in Chester. A virtual option to attend the information class is also available by calling SHAEC at 354-1055 and leaving a message.