VCU Community Engagement News

Center for Community Engagement and Impact

Exterior of the VCU Health Hub at 25th building, a multi-story building with many windows. The hub is located on the first floor.

This spring, the VCU Health Hub at 25th introduced the Community Ambassador Program. The ambassador program convenes East End residents with diverse backgrounds, lived experiences and perspectives to serve as liaisons between the VCU Health Hub at 25th and the greater East End community.

In order to meet the hub’s mission—to provide equitable services, mutually-beneficial programming and high-impact research to improve the health and wellbeing of the East End community—it is imperative to include community residents as valued members of the team.

Community ambassadors serve as “champions” for the hub in their local community and circles of influence. Ambassadors provide valued insight towards identifying community needs and improving the ambassador model as we move forward. Most importantly, ambassadors provide the hub the opportunity to ensure active engagement of community residents on an ongoing basis. Additionally, the hub provides ambassadors with tools to influence their own learning and skills development through training sessions and leadership opportunities.

The first VCU Health Hub at 25th Community Ambassador Program cohort includes five Richmond East End community members, including Mr. Courts, Ms. Hester, Ms. Taylor, Janai and Sheora.

A gentleman smiles warmly towards the camera. He wears a striped button up shirt and glasses.

Mr. Courts was born and raised in Church Hill and returned to Richmond in 2017 after more than 30 years away. In college, he received an associate degree in community and social services. He enjoys helping others, especially the seniors in the community. He hopes to increase access to transportation for seniors in the East End and provide mentorship to youth in the community.

“I love the sense of togetherness [in the East End],” Mr. Courts said. “Everyone looks out for each other and it’s always been like that since I was a child. Everybody knows everybody.”

In his spare time, Mr. Courts is an avid fisherman and enjoys shooting pool and listening to jazz music.

Ms. Hester has been an East End resident for over 30 years. She loves talking to people in her community, asking them questions and giving suggestions. She’s excited about being a VCU Health Hub at 25th community ambassador because of all that she can learn from VCU, not just for her, but for everybody she comes in contact with.

“I guess I can say I just love people!” Ms. Hester said. “[I love] knowing that I can offer something to help somebody get ahead…[There are] so many things people do not know that’s available to them, and they do not know where to get that information.” As a VCU Health Hub at 25th community ambassador, Ms. Hester will share information with residents who need it.

In her spare time, Ms. Hester loves to talk with people, spend time with her grandchildren and entertain guests.

Ms. Taylor has been an East End resident for 36 years. She’s an active member of her church and regularly alerts people to resources at the VCU Health Hub at 25th that they don’t know about but might qualify for. Ms. Taylor also worked in hospitals for 40 years, including at VCU. She’s passionate about uplifting community members who are in need.

“I think I’m the resource center for whatever anyone needs,” Mrs. Taylor said. “I always let [people] know what’s going on, because a whole lot of people don’t ask questions. I’m not interested in your personal life. All I want to know is, is there something that you need?”

In her spare time, Ms. Taylor likes to crochet and knit.

Sheora has been an East End resident for three years. She organizes impactful sorority programming in the East End as well as non-profit programming with youth organizations. As a community ambassador, Sheora is excited about interacting with community members and learning about the East End’s history through storytelling of the longtime neighborhood residents.

“I love that I am able to (still) see love within the community,” Sheora said. “Each morning, I am positively impacted and inspired by residents who embrace one another while standing at the bus stop, the smiles I see on the faces of young men as they shake hands while standing in front of the corner stores, and the encouraging walk to school many area youth residents still enjoy each morning.”

In her spare time, Sheora loves to travel, try new local restaurants, photography, short walks and long runs and anything that reminds her that life is about learning something new each day.

Janai has been an East End resident for her entire life. She serves the Church Hill area with her church family through community outreach, youth activities and food and clothing drives. As a community ambassador, Janai is excited about the advancements happening in health resources that are available to community members.

 “I love the [East End] black community and how we are sticking together through the changes that are occurring,” Janai said.

In her spare time, Janai enjoys cooking, working out and self care.

Categories VCU Health Hub at 25th
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