NCCU nursing students partner with public housing residents

Feb. 22, 2014 @ 10:17 PM

Elaine Robinson’s son has asthma. She is still working her way through her experiences with domestic violence. Her older sister died from AIDS at 27 years old.

For the past month and a half, Robinson has spent time in the classroom with N.C. Central University nursing students learning about sexually transmitted diseases, allergies and asthma, family health history and healthy relationships. All of these topics, she said, hit home.
“Once you learn something, that’s like a seed,” Robinson said. “You pass it on.” 
For the past 11 years, she has lived in McDougald Terrace, the largest conventional public housing neighborhood in Durham, off Lawson Street. NCCU’s campus is only a few blocks away, and the neighborhood partnership with the university has ramped up this year.
Community health-focused nursing students and McDougald Terrace and Club Boulevard public housing residents have met about five times in the classroom. These residents were interviewed and have gained the title of community ambassador, a title they wore on their T-shirts Saturday during their health presentations.
They are bringing back information to the low-income families in their communities, as well as using their new NCCU partners to connect families with new health resources. 
“They’ll listen to someone they know quicker,” Robinson said. “They’re able to put a face and a personality to the message.”
Joyce Beavers, a community ambassador for the Club Boulevard public housing community, said she had a brother who died from AIDS complications in 2011. During her presentation in the NCCU nursing building on Saturday, she showed off a poster of sobering facts. Durham has the third highest rate of HIV cases in North Carolina, with many of the new cases appearing in teens.
“It’s dedication, number one,” Beavers said of becoming an ambassador. “It’s not just dedication to this. It’s dedication to yourself.”
Natasha Hall, NCCU’s community health nursing instructor, said the program now has seven community ambassadors enrolled who will participate in NCCU health fairs and speaker events. She said the program may eventually partner with Duke University and expand into other neighborhoods.
A handful of students from Bennett College, a liberal arts school for women, also attended the presentations on Saturday to see if they can replicate the program in Greensboro.
Tytiana Mills, 18, also is working as a community ambassador for McDougald Terrace. She has a teacher’s background, having worked as a teacher’s assistant. She also helps her mother at home, who’s disabled. Mills wants to study to be a pediatrician.
Most of all, Mills said she wants to serve as a role model for people her age. She has lived in McDougald for about a year.
“I just want people to listen, open up and listen, and take it all in,” she said.
NCCU students said the information they shared in the ambassador classes ranged from high African-American infant mortality rates to how to properly put on a condom. 
They said the partnership has gotten rid of any preconceived notions they may have had about low-income families. The program has stressed the commonalities between residents and students who live and study only a few blocks from each other.
NCCU nursing student Jameel Henderson was laid off within the pharmaceutical industry two years ago. He decided to go back to school and get hands-on patient experience at NCCU.
Student Karmine Langford also was laid off and wanted to go back and get her bachelor of science in nursing, and student Ronita Hill said she revisited her passion for nursing after her mother passed away from breast cancer. 
All three of them will graduate in May.
“We park right there,” Langford said, pointing to the lots adjacent to South Alston Avenue, “and we don’t know what the disparities are. It makes you more aware.”
“Right across the street,” Hill added, “it’s a whole different world.”