“We like to grow our own” said the Director of Public Relations at the North West Mississippi Regional Medical Center, a 195 bed hospital located in Clarksdale, MS. It resides just across the street from Aaron E. Henry Community Health Center, which is named after a local hero, Aaron Henry, a pharmacist and civil rights leader whom made a large effort to provide quality healthcare to the population of the Delta Region. Both of these facilities, among others, such as the Delta Health Center and the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce are partners with the Tri-County Workforce Alliance (TCWA), which is responsible for running the New Pathways to Health Initiative for middle school and high school aged youth in the Delta. The New Pathways Initiative is essentially the epitome of “growing their own” as the staff and community partners have shown an enormous community-level efforts in recruiting students, expanding curriculum, and encouraging positive employment outcomes in the field of health care.
While attending site visits and conducting interviews with TCWA program participants the theme of growth was undeniably related. Terms such as “ community revitalization” are consistently involved in the community development conversations in the Delta. Health and workforce development can be seen as important components of this growth. This idea was emulated in the interviews we conducted with parents and family members of the New Pathways participants. Our data showed that over 80% of survey respondents strongly agreed that the Tri-County Workforce Alliance has benefited their community. It may be inferred from this statistic that the TCWA programming is not only growing youth’s workforce potential in the field of healthcare, but also, benefiting community development.
The theme of growth I believe is also relevant to my experience working in the Delta region. While working alongside TCWA I had to adapt preexisting notions I had about working in communities different from my own. I developed a flexibility and critically that helped me see beyond the surface level observations and assumptions I initially held. I am aware that I can sometimes get preoccupied with a community’s negative aspects, however this experience has taught me that it is interesting and necessary to view the same outcomes through a lens of growth and optimism. Looking at data or listening to stories within a more positive framework can allow for personal growth that complements the growth occurring within that community. It is exciting to see the community growth in action, and I am hopeful that the network of TCWA and its partners will be leaders in continuing the idea of growing their own.