By Marissa Lee
From being expelled as a freshman in high school to becoming a board member in the same school district, Silvia Ortega will be the first to say her life has come full circle. A young lady full of passion and purpose, Silvia is one of the graduating members of San Manuel Gateway College’s Promotores Academy’s first clinic-based Community Health Workers (cCHW) cohort, summer 2018. Under ICP leadership, this cCHW training is one of the first of its kind in Southern California, pioneering the future of holistic integrated health care.
Raised in Jurupa Valley, Silvia was the first in her family to attend a four-year institution, California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, where she studied business administration and hospitality. Originally, she dreamed of opening her own restaurant. But a life-changing struggle with mental health during her last year in college birthed a new passion to reach other women in her community with similar struggles. She learned of the Promotores Academy from El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center (El Sol) and completed the CHW 101 training in 2013. For Silvia, the CHW 101 course was truly foundational. During the CHW 101 training, she realized her full potential as a leader. She also gained a close mentor who has kept her grounded and continually reminds her to watch her character, stay humble, and remember her roots.
In the four years since finishing the CHW 101 training, Silvia has truly taken these words to heart. She worked with El Sol for four years, visiting expectant mothers in her home town, Jurupa Valley. Early 2017, she was elected to serve on the Jurupa Unified School District Governing Board of Trustees for Area Two. Her community experience in her home town opened her eyes to the lack of knowledge and conscious conversations between the health care system and community members she worked with. Wanting to refresh her CHW training, Silvia enrolled in the cCHW training this summer 2018.
Currently, Silvia is interning in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. With four years of working with expectant mothers under her belt, this placement was a perfect transition into the clinical aspect of healthcare. Beyond work experience, Silvia feels a personal connection with the families she works with at the NICU since her family has experienced the passing of a beloved baby. Silvia noted one of the most interesting parts of working in the hospital has been learning Spanish medical terminology. While Spanish is her native language, she feels she is currently learning “another language”. She is excited to become fluent in this new language and apply it to her work. Having worked both in the community and in the clinic, she also sees the importance of prevention. The NICU has shown her how many NICU patients conditions could have been prevented by home visits, saving both the families and the hospitals time and money. From Spanish to being a certified home visit specialist for expectant mothers, she sees how all her experiences have come full circle at the NICU.
And the circles continue. This fall Silvia is teaching the CHW 101 training while completing her internship for cCHW 202. She strongly believes she has been given a platform to speak out humbly, educate the educators, and learn from others. “My purpose is to inspire health, happiness, hope, love, and faith in no particular order.” Because life isn’t linear… It makes a full circle.