Brittany Roberts had no idea that a trip to her daughter’s school would change her life.

Brittany was tired from a long day at work, but, before she could go home, she had to stop by her oldest daughter’s school to pick up her report card. While there, she noticed “Austin Coming Together,” a Malcolm X College partner that supports residents of the Austin community, had set up a table.

When she walked past, a representative wanted to share more information about Malcolm X’s programs, but Brittany initially wasn’t interested. She never liked school and had a job she was happy with.

Brittany had been working at Northwestern Hospital for about five and a half years in different roles: in the call center, as an MRI tech assistant, and as a patient service representative. However, before leaving her child’s school, Brittany changed her mind—she decided to stop by the table.

She listened as someone explained the programs offered at Malcolm X College and learned more about Project MPACT. The grant, part of City Colleges’ Workforce Equity Initiative programming, would allow Brittany to go to school tuition-free. Soon after, she enrolled at Malcolm X.

“I signed up for the Community Health Worker program,” she said. “It changed my life. It was the best thing I ever did. All for stopping at a table that I was actually just going to walk by.”

Brittany was a part of the first class to complete the Community Health Worker program. She started classes at Malcolm X in January 2020 and finished in June of that same year. The program not only gave Brittany new skills but, also, a new lease on school.

“For once, I wasn’t the only African American person,” she said. “I wasn’t the only 30-year-old. There were people of all nationalities, all ages, all career paths—some people who never really went to college were in my class. It just made for a comfortable environment and one that I felt like I would pursue again. I didn’t feel out of place.”

The affordability of the program was also attractive to Brittany. The Project MPACT grant she received paid for her courses and books, and provided a free laptop if she needed one. She even earned a stipend after successfully completing her courses. Now, Brittany is considering returning to school again, and, once she decides, she knows exactly where to turn.

“Being a single parent, I don’t have thousands of dollars to flush out for education. I’m considering going back to school, and I’m going back to City Colleges of Chicago.”

Earning her Community Health Worker certificate was convenient, too. Brittany’s classes were in the evenings, which allowed her to continue working during the day, and, for the West Sider, Malcolm X was close to her job. Most importantly, Brittany left Malcolm X feeling prepared for her new role.

“Everything I learned is being actively used. Every day.”

Brittany is now a community health worker at an independent living facility in Bronzeville. As the first and only community health worker at her job, she’s a trail blazer there. She helps those at the independent living facility understand the health services available to them, and she does the same for the Bronzeville and Washington Park communities.

Brittany admits it is hard work, but she enjoys it and finds the work fulfilling. She’s thankful the Community Health Worker program at Malcolm X allowed her to find a career tailored around what she wants. She now has a great work-life balance that allows her to spend more time with her three children.

“I now have a career instead of just a job. I have a place in the world, and I’m fulfilling what I believe is my purpose… For me, it’s more than just having a certification or just completing some education, it’s really changed me and my children’s lives. I can provide for them because now I have a quality career.”

Brittany is forever thankful she stopped at that table at her daughter’s school. Her advice for anyone considering attending City Colleges of Chicago? “Do it.”

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