First in the State: New Mexico High Schoolers Receive Community Health Certification
By Leticia Archuleta | Executive Director, Health Leadership High School, May 20, 2020
“COVID-19 has led to health professional shortages that will only increase as we move forward. In response, our communities must adapt the way health care is delivered.”
We are becoming a trauma-informed community school, so that our love is not only contained to those within our school, but can be spread throughout our community. This is even more critical during COVID-19 closures.
This month, Health Leadership High School (HLHS) will award a cohort of 11 students a Community Health Worker dual credit certificate—the first high school in New Mexico to offer this rigorous program as a class.
Not only is this a stunning accomplishment for a high schooler, it’s also a critical time. We are faced with unprecedented circumstances; COVID-19 has led to health professional shortages that will only increase as we move forward. In response, our communities must adapt the way health care is delivered.
Health Leadership High School has answered this call by adapting, streamlining, and accelerating our Community Health Workers dual certification program in partnership with Central New Mexico Community College (CNM). Our students had to pivot quickly during school closures, but they persevered. We need them now more than ever.
Why Community Health Workers?
With a health care system strained by a pandemic, teamwork with certified community members will be more necessary than ever. We are seeing a shifting focus from health care service delivery in hospitals to delivery in communities and homes.
According to CNM, Community Health Workers (CHWs) are “frontline public health workers and critical members of health care delivery teams. They focus on the social aspects of care that support and enhance critical clinical activities such as diagnosis, treatment, or clinical procedures that are performed by licensed health professionals like doctors and nurses.”
Community Health Workers play an important role in equity and transforming the health system. Since students at Health Leadership High School come from the communities they will serve, they will be able to promote health literacy, health education, and serve as interpreters while maintaining a close relationship with community members. In addition, many of these students are bilingual Spanish speakers. There is no one better to understand, advocate, and care for the community than the community members themselves.
Graduation During COVID
Students at Health Leadership High School began the CNM dual credit Community Health Workers certification program in November of 2019 and completed the program this April.
This highly rigorous program not only required dual credit coursework, but six additional certifications in CPR, first aid, community and public health, documentation and confidentiality, as well as a community practicum. Because of mandated school closures due to COVID-19, our cohort moved to a virtual platform, completing their community practicum online with Roadrunner Food Bank. They wrote and designed flyers with resources that were placed in food boxes and distributed to families in need.
Our graduates are now eligible to attain a State CHW certificate and begin practicum-based work in federally qualified health centers, hospital departments, and clinics.
A Pipeline In the Making
And this is only the beginning. Health Leadership High School along with CNM, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and the City of Albuquerque are developing a pipeline. Together we will help curb the health provider shortage in New Mexico and increase the number of high school students who can assist under-served communities and increase access to healthcare.
These students are trailblazers for future generations interested in a health care profession. I am so proud. They have incredible strengths to offer the CHW profession and their success shows that they are truly invested in their community.
Leticia Archuleta, LISW LCSW LSSW, is the Executive Director and Principal at Health Leadership High School, a member of the Leadership High Schools Network, an initiative of Future Focused Education.
Health Leadership High School will present a Virtual Ceremony to honor the first High School cohort in the State of New Mexico to complete the Community Health Workers (CHW) Certification Program. Two Juniors, eight Sophomores, and one Freshman will be honored as the first in the state to receive a CHW dual credit certificate. Health Leadership High School is honored to announce this achievement.
Cesiah Gonzales 9th grade
Davina Chavez 10th grade
Nellie Beltran 10th grade
Crila Gutierrez 11th grade
Alma Mendez 11th grade
Angelica Maito 10th grade
Sofia Grijalva 10th grade
Zaira Enriquez 10th grade
Fernanda Castillo 10th grade
Cheyeanne Frazier 10th grade
Delilah Pereda 10th grade