Public Allies Kyerra Simmons (left) and Tajai Rainey (right)
October 11, 2016
Written by Anita Mogaka, United Way Brand Journalist Intern
The Community Health Ambassadors are Public Allies AmeriCorps Members who work on the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIFH) Collaborative through United Way. Our two new newest members, Tajai Rainey and Kyerra Simmons, are Milwaukee natives who are excited to join the team and help strengthen African American families in our community.
We sat down with them to find out what inspired them to connect with United Way, what work they will focus on, and what are some of the goals they hope to accomplish over the next year.
Q: What inspired you to apply to this position with United Way?
Tajai: I have a one year old daughter and after her birth, I wanted to make a change. I had no idea what the first steps were to take and then somebody told me about Public Allies and I did the application right before the deadline. I was matched with United Way and now I’m here and it means everything.
Kyerra: I started doing community activism around early 2015 after I heard about the Mike Brown case. I started getting into community activism, getting myself involved with a bunch of workshops, helping organize rallies including the Black Lives Matter movement. Last August, I got pregnant with my son, started working at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital as a housekeeper. I wanted to do more, and took my parent’s advice to apply to be a Public Allie. I got matched with United Way which was one of my top picks. I’m really excited to see what I can do to help strengthen our community.
Q: What are some of the projects you will be working on, and what kind of challenges do you foresee you may face in this position?
Tajai: We are here to work on the Lifecourse Initiative to help decrease the infant mortality rate. We will be focusing on three areas which include reducing poverty, making sure that those in need have access to health care, and strengthening African American families. I’m very interested in all three areas, but one of the challenges I foresee is facing the numbers and seeing the real of it all. I’m a perfectionist so I want to fix it and get the number to zero. But everything is a work in process and I take that challenge and use it to my advantage. I’m going to work extremely hard to reduce those numbers.
Kyerra: We’re going to be focusing on three main zip codes and those are specified because they are the areas in the community that have the highest rate of infant mortality among African American women. We’re going to try to get that percentage to go down and try to increase their resources so that they can be healthy. So far, I haven’t had any challenges yet, but I know they’re coming. But one thing that might be a challenge is feeling like – will the work have an impact. I need to try and do more things to make sure that our goal is reached by 2017.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this position and what are some of your future aspirations beyond this role?
Tajai: I hope to get more involved in my community, specifically with young African American girls between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. I actually have a program of my own I’m working on called Lotus Flower where I would like to provide a safe space for young girls to discuss real life situations. We would discuss topics in an informational/educational manner, while also providing development skills. I feel like a lot of young girls are lost, so with this experience I hope to take away a lot of what I’ll learn and apply it towards working with youth in our community.
Kyerra: I'm using this year as a stepping stone to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I know now it definitely has to be work related to this field. If it’s not a career at United Way, then I definitely want a career with Public Health Allies. I really aspire to be successful and make a difference in people’s lives.
Learn more about United Way’s work in Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIFH) Collaborative.
About the Blogger
Anita Mogaka is a Brand Journalist Intern at United Way and is a Senior at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee pursuing a double major in Finance & Marketing with a certificate in International Business. Anita enjoys reading, writing and listening to podcasts. She is also keen to youth empowerment and believes that we all have unique gifts that should be used in order to contribute meaningfully to society.