City of Houston announces fellows program to fight COVID-19

To help in the fight against COVID-19, the Mayor’s Office of Education in collaboration with the Mayor’s Health Equity Response Task Force, Public Health Education Subcommittee, developed a new initiative known as the COVID-19 Community Health Education Fellows (CHEF) Program.

The program is designed to educate and empower at least 100 youth and young adults to help the City fight COVID-19, especially in the most vulnerable communities. The CHEF program recruits individuals between the ages of 18 to 30 from Houston neighborhoods determined to have the greatest vulnerability using the CDC social vulnerability data, health data, and accessibility data. This included 17 priority super neighborhoods and the 10 Complete Communities.

JPMorgan Chase provided a $100,000 grant to fund the program and it was developed in collaboration with other partners including Workforce Solutions.

The first cohort of CHEFs successfully completed the 10-week program, which includes obtaining a certification in community health work and contact tracing at a local community college and a one-week, intense training at the City of Houston where they are provided soft-skills training, immersion into city resources, programs, and efforts, and they met with practicing physicians and healthcare workers to get first-hand knowledge from experts. This is followed by a paid 7-week externship program at the City of Houston where CHEFs work with the most vulnerable communities to help develop a targeted public health education campaign to fight COVID-19.

“This is a great program that focuses on the urgent need for community health workers to help us respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The CHEF program recognizes the value of accessible and relevant health education in our neighborhoods and empowers young individuals to serve as leaders and liaisons to support the City of Houston’s recovery from COVID-19.“

“COVID-19 has made clear the importance of people serving on the front lines – and the critical need for community health workers,” said Carolyn Watson, head of philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase in Houston. “This fellowship program offers our young people the opportunity to serve our community during an unprecedented time, while putting them on the path for a rewarding career. JPMorgan Chase is proud to be a partner in this important work.”

To date, 41 participants started the program with 32 successfully completing all the certifications and training required to become a CHEF.

“The Gulf Coast Workforce Board is pleased to partner with the City of Houston and JP Morgan Chase to engage young people in the battle against COVID-19 while they develop valuable skills for future careers” said Mike Temple, Director of the Gulf Coast Workforce Board and Workforce Solutions.

Workforce Solutions will provide scholarships to each of the 44 graduates to participate in the paid externships. CHEFs receive a paid externship at the City of Houston to help with the COVID-19 response, working at least 7 weeks, earning $15.00 per hour for 32 hours a week.