Microsoft announced a $100,000 grant to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso on Tuesday, May 11, at the 79905 Block Party, a celebration of the San Juan, Lincoln and Corbins Sambrano neighborhoods in that ZIP code.
The grant will launch the Promotores de Salud/Community Health Worker Program at the Foster School of Medicine. It offsets salary costs for the hire of promotores– community health educators – and serves as a pilot project to provide families with internet access, computer and health literacy skills, and skills training for workforce development. Microsoft TechSpark will also donate 200 Microsoft ThinkPads valued at $50,000 for the program.
When J.J. Childress, community engagement manager at Microsoft, became aware of the difficulty accessing technology in 79905 ZIP code he knew he could help.
“I’m part of a team that promotes digital inclusion,” said Childress. “For Microsoft, digital inclusion means having those devices and the skills to use them while having connectivity to access the internet. We can make a meaningful investment in the work of TTUHSC El Paso through the grassroots outreach and trusted collaboration of the promotores. The digital divide creates and increases social and economic disparities, so the goal of our partnership is to remove these challenges for our 79905 community.”
Promotores will use the ThinkPad devices to help families connect with online health resources. They, along with 79905 residents, will have the opportunity to receive the devices by completing skills training from LinkedIn Learning for computer literacy and career pathways, making them more competitive in the job market. They will also gain the knowledge to improve their own health outcomes as well as for their family and neighbors with resources such as telehealth appointments. Workforce Solutions Borderplex is also key partner in providing opportunities for childcare, GED preparation courses and additional upskilling.
Jessica A. Chacon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Immunology and Microbiology in the Department of Medical Education, runs the Promotores de Salud program. It will initially target residents living in the 79905 ZIP code, where the TTUHSC El Paso campus is located, focusing on COVID-19 outreach and closing the digital divide.
“This grant is important to provide free upskilling opportunities for our community during the pandemic,” said Dr. Chacon. “79905 is home to our campus and we should be a lead resource in partnering alongside of our community to improve the lives of those in our local neighborhoods. Less than 10% of adults have a college degree and 46% have less than a high school education. Our program seeks to align with ongoing national efforts to ensure everyone, especially those from underserved communities, have access to digital skills. Microsoft’s grant provides us with the resources to do just that.”
Along with a group of faculty and students, Dr. Chacon has developed an initiative called El Paso Health Education and Awareness Team (EP-HEAT) to provide education to the community about COVID-19. The EP-HEAT team will work alongside promotores to address vaccine hesitancy in the target area and provide COVID-19 educational resources to families.
“I joined EP-HEAT at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Kei Takigawa, a third-year medical student at the Foster School of Medicine. “My goal is to inform the community about the COVID-19 virus and what people can do to protect themselves. I’ve also educated the community on vaccines since they’ve been approved. Vaccination is the fastest way to end the pandemic and I am happy to be part of this impactful program.”
EP-HEAT will work with the San Juan Neighborhood Association to provide introductions to the community and host orientations on the needs of the neighborhood. The Lincoln Neighborhood Association and Corbins Sambrano Neighborhood Association will help connect promotores to additional areas of 79905.
”It’s our time,” said Fred Borrego, San Juan Neighborhood Association president, while addressing the block party crowd. “Let’s take advantage of these opportunities for our neighborhoods.”
About Microsoft TechSpark
Through the TechSpark program, Microsoft partners with communities to understand their unique regional challenges and to explore solutions, programs, and partnerships that will be most effective locally.
Check out our photos from the 79905 Block Party: