Rukiya Curvey Johnson, MBA, executive director of the Rush Education and Career Hub (REACH), has a favorite African proverb that explains why REACH relies on partnerships to serve students: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” She and REACH Manager of Strategic Initiatives Natalia Gallegos, MPH, recently shared REACH’s story and impact in a webinar hosted by the national nonprofit JFF.
As part of JFF’s “Building Equitable Pathways” series, Curvey Johnson and Gallegos presented REACH’s work to prepare students for the workforce of the future by collaborating with Chicago Public Schools, local colleges, employers and colleagues throughout Rush.
In addition to showcasing REACH’s approach and its impact on more than 3,000 CPS students, teachers and families, they shared the story of Celeste, a graduate from Crane Medical Prep High School in 2018.
Through the Rush Health IT Pathways program, which provides intensive training in the Epic electronic health record system, Celeste earned two highly valuable Epic certifications while still in high school. She then completed her associate’s degree at Malcolm X College while working part-time as a clinical systems analyst at Rush University Medical Center.
Today, she’s a full-time student in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at Rush University and is still working at Rush. “I’m able to focus on school, earn and gain valuable work experience,” Celeste says.
She’s also more informed about her career options and empowered to continue on her path to a fulfilling career, says Curvey Johnson, and “that’s all because of the power of partnerships” with Crane Medical Prep, Malcolm X, Epic and the Rush IT team that developed the program. “We can’t do it alone; cross-sector collaborations are necessary to reduce disparities and promote equity,” she says.