Educating Local Youth to Address Healthcare Inequities

Educating Local Youth to Address Healthcare Inequities

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Bridge to Employment (BTE) program started as a way to give at-risk youth career support.

Now J&J Vision is bringing the BTE program to Jacksonville’s Englewood High School with the hopes that the program will also reduce the inequities in healthcare.

The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Bridge to Employment (BTE) program started as a way to give at-risk youth career support. Now J&J Vision is bringing the BTE program to Jacksonville’s Englewood High School with the hopes that the program will also reduce the inequities in healthcare.

The initial goal of Bridge to Employment program is simple: inspire students with barriers to success (such as language or economic circumstances) to stay in school, excel academically, and elevate their career aspirations. The BTE program became a partnership between J&J, high schools, institutions of higher education, and community-based organizations in cities across the U.S. and different parts of the world. Abraham (Abe) Alangadan, Senior Portfolio Project Manager at J&J Vision felt the time was right to bring the success of the BTE program to Jacksonville, Florida. 

The program’s official kickoff on November 19 at Jacksonville’s Englewood High School brought together over 40 students and representatives from Johnson & Johnson Vision, FSCJ, and the DCPS Board to commemorate this three-year Johnson & Johnson global workforce education and career training initiative.

Abdiel Alvarez, PhD and Vice President of WW Quality & Compliance at J&J Vision joined the BTE program as an Executive Sponsor. “I had heard about the program from our location in Santa Ana/Irvine, CA, so when Abe approached me to sponsor launching this program in Jacksonville the answer was an easy ‘yes’,” stated Abdiel. Once the momentum started, volunteer mentors from J&J Vision, area educators, and community members were quick to join in and share their skills.

Dr. Doug Brauer, Dean of Engineering & Industry at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) is a contributing member of the BTE partnership.

“The BTE program facilitates a unique set of opportunities and partnerships to support our youth’s inclusion and equity as participants in community workforce and economic development.”

While the program is career-focused, participants soon realized that the benefits of the program extend beyond just future employment opportunities.

“Some of the students we serve are immigrants to the United States and may be the only English-speakers in their families. They have tremendous pressure on them to provide for their families, while attending school,” stated Mr. Alangadan. He noted that while the BTE program directly impacts the lives of the students, eventually their families and their extended families also benefit from their success. “Education equals better opportunities, not only in their future careers but in their access to healthcare as well.” 


Bridging the Gap

The issue of health care inequality is still unfamiliar to many people. Only 41% of white Americans believe that the healthcare system treats people unfairly based on their race or ethnic background. This percentage jumps to 70% for black Americans.

The Bridge to Employment program hopes to shrink the gaps in healthcare inequality by providing opportunities for better income and access to healthcare for its participants. In other cities, the BTE program has a proven track record of guiding its students into higher education, with 75% of BTE graduates being accepted into an institution of higher education that they plan to attend.

Another factor in healthcare inequality is the disproportionately low number of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in health and science careers. According to a recent survey, 88% of BTE graduates are aware of careers in the health care sector, 75% of BTE graduates have knowledge of the skills required for a health care career, and 46% of BTE graduates plan to pursue a career in the health care sector.


Creating Waves of Change

BTE Site Coordinator and representative from Communities in Schools of Jacksonville, Dykisha Potter noted, “This program will allow us to build the learning and leadership potential of our students.  I am confident that as they learn and grow, they’ll bring that knowledge to their families, colleges, workplaces, etc.  There are also some direct community service opportunities embedded into the program that can have a positive impact on the community and potentially spark a life-long interest in giving back.”

The Johnson & Johnson Credo states a responsibility to the communities in which they live and work, and the BTE program is just another way that they are standing by their commitment.

Abdiel Alvarez: “If we are able to help one student go beyond their initial academic aspirations, it will be a success. If we can do the same for 25-30 students, it will be great. And if we can make this a sustainable initiative for years to come, it will be even better,”

“We have established goals to help increase the number of students who enroll in higher education and increase the numbers of students pursuing a career in the STEM sector.  We are starting with one school and I hope down the road we can expand and help other students across Jacksonville beyond Englewood High School.”

Over 70 self-sustaining corporate-funded sites in Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States have engaged youth in the BTE program. More than 400 Johnson & Johnson employees have actively volunteered their time to the BTE program, contributing over 4,000 hours per year to coach and supervise the participating students. The Bridge to Employment program’s commitment to local communities will have a ripple effect far into the future, creating a more equitable playing field for all.