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Best Friends Community Services Celebrates CWH Graduation


Graduates Include Five Grapeland Residents

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – A ceremony to honor recent graduates of the Community Health Worker (CHW) Program sponsored by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler was held on Thursday, Sept. 27 and included five Grapeland residents.

The graduates were: Asa Butler – Grapeland; JoAnn Salmon – Grapeland; Barbara Shurden – Trin

ity; Shirie Taylor – Grapeland; Demetria Toliver – Lufkin; Stephanie Walker – Grapeland; Lavaya Walton – Lufkin ; and Christy Willi-Gillian – Grapeland.

The ceremony was held at First Christian Memorial Church in Grapeland and began at 12:30 p.m. with a welcome from Alphia “Nikki” Steinsbo, the Executive Director of Best Friends Community Service.

According to Kim Bush, the Director of the CHW Program at the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, “The CHW program is a state certification program through the Department of Health and Human Services. It is a 160 hour basic core competency curriculum. The competencies cover communications skills, interpersonal skills, advocacy, capacity building and teaching organization in a knowledge base – which is basic health care.”


“As a CHW, you are certified for two years and you do receive continuing education credit so you can maintain your certification,” Bush exp

lained. “You are able to work with communities and individuals to help them to empower themselves, improve their health, their skills and to enjoy a better quality of life.”


Bush said the Best Friends organization became involved with the program after Steinsbo saw an ad in the Gladewater newspaper about the program and requested more information.

“We met and talked and Best Friends became a U.S, Department of Labor apprenticeship site for community health workers which helps them gain more credibility and opens up more opportunities as an agency in the community. We continued to talk, we set up some classes and today is our graduation day,” she said.

Bush said the certification allows the graduates to enhance their current skills, to better communicate with others and to learn more about how to help community members.

Christie Cofer, the Patient Service Coordinator for the organization, added “I really believe this was one of our best classes. They were very attentive and I believe they will be great CHWs and great assets to this com


munity. They have learned a lot and with some of their experiences they also brought a lot to the table.”

Shirie Taylor said this program allowed her and her recently graduated colleagues “… to understand more about what they do so they can help better educate other people.”

The graduates are all employees or affiliates of Best Friends Community Services. According to the Best Friends website, “Best Friends Community Services provides physical and intellectual disability support services to residents of several communities within Texas (Region 4 and Region 5). We offer support to people and help them realize their goals, discover new talents and enjoy life in a caring community.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.

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