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My APHA Experience
Delores Collins, also known as Ms. D, is the founder and Executive Director of A Vision of Change, Inc. (AVOC), a nonprofit that offers prevention and intervention programs for youth and families affected by an incarcerated parent. An alumni of Class 19 of Neighborhood Leadership Institute’s Leadership Cleveland Program. she holds an Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Development and is currently enrolled in the Community Health Workers Program at Cleveland State University. She was part of the first cohort of Community Health Ambassadors, who trained and work with the PRCHN’s REACH Fellows to increase health equity in their neighborhoods. The first two cohorts of Health Ambassadors have joined together under the name Creating Greater Destinies, with a focus on the power of residents to make a difference in their communities.

I was asked to be a part of a team to design an abstract for APHA titled “Creating Greater Destinies: Lessons learned from a resident driven approach to improve health, increase opportunity and strengthen community.” I was excited, and honored to finally be at the table to give my input on what is being implemented in the community where I live. Several months went by, and we finally received an email stating that the abstract was accepted.

The excitement started with the flight, this being my first time on a plane. I was facing my fear and moving forward with my journey. The first day of the conference I was tickled pink when I saw the Big Blue Bear peeping through the front window of the Center. I felt like I was in a dream as I walked through the facility and saw people from all over the world. They had come here to share the work they had created in order for all nationalities to be a healthy nation. I could not wait to get back to let my family, friends, neighbors, and community know that they are emphasizing health as our fundamental human right. I became so emotional that tears dropped from my eyes as I finally realized that they really do care about us.

I was especially interested in attending the presentations for Community Health Workers. Each day I attended a session and got the opportunity to network with CHWs from Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, California, and New Mexico. The discussion or topics focused on intedisciplinary approaches among CHWs and public health entities, training methods, and tools that support community engagement and CHWs. There was also a roundtable discussion around diversity and unity, exploring CHWs statewide and regional and local networks. I felt like I had met family who had been missing from my life for a long time and we finally had the opportunity to see one another. We shared photos, numbers, and email addresses. I have reached out to some of them since I been back.

I want to thank Don Slocum of Neighborhood Leadership Institute for making it possible for me to attend the APHA 2016 Meeting & Expo in Denver, Colorado. I appreciate Erika Hood for walking me through the process for my flight and hotel registration. I thank Briana McIntosh, Maleka Embry, Anna Thornton from the PRCHN for making feel a part of the team. I want to send a special thanks to Dr. Erika Trapl, PhD, for recognizing me during the poster presentation and accepting me for who I am. Also a special thank you to Martha Halko from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health for acknowledging me during her presentation and for recognizing that residents have a voice at the table when it comes to making decisions about the community we live in.

In the near future I plan on helping to form a local network of community health workers, joining the Ohio Community Health Workers Association, looking into how I can become certified to teach CHW, and taking continuing education courses to instruct a CHW session. One important aspect of my life is going back to college and obtaining a master’s degree in Social Work or Public health, along with my family and helping to building a stronger, healthier, and thriving community.
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