MHP Salud has expanded its programmatic offering in Florida with the addition of the Infórmate (“Inform Yourself”) program in Central Florida. The program has brought on four young women to serve as Peer Advocates within the Latino community where they live, learn and socialize. It is overseen by Program Director Randi McCallian and Program Coordinator Patria Alguila. Patria got her start in health programming as a Teen Advocate herself, and she’s spent the past month orienting the group of teens to the concept of community outreach.
She says she can already sense the energy the Peer Advocates bring to their position.
“They’re inspired to help their peers, and that’s something we look for in any new Community Health Worker,” she said.
Patria says the young women are interested in pursuing careers in the health field after finishing high school, and they see this position, which will be part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer holiday, as a path to that goal.
“It’s nice to see the correlation between what they’re doing now and their dreams for the future,” she said.
One of the newly-hired Peer Advocates is Emma Calvo, a rising senior, who is already taking CNA courses offered through her high school’s medical academy. She says one of Infórmate’s aspects in which she’s most interested is the specific demographic focus on teenagers.
“People don’t really focus on what teens have to go through. Especially now, there’s so much testing that they’re making us do, and there’s a lot of stress,” she said. “Once kids turn 14, 15 or 16, they get a job and a driver’s license and kids start taking on these responsibilities at such a young age, and it can be very stressful for them.”
After their training, the Peer Advocates will conduct a Needs Assessment among their Latino peers, and they will use the information collected to design targeted health sessions around a health topic.
“We recently had a good conversation with the Peer Advocates talking about drugs, alcohol and the reasons for suicide, because those are issues that they see as prevalent,” said Patria. “Education about planning for the future and dealing with emotional stress is still related to health, even if clinical health isn’t the central focus of the program.”
Whatever the final health focus of the program, Teen Advocate Emma is setting her sights on making community connections.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people. It’s always awesome to make a difference in somebody’s world, whether it’s little or big.”