Tell us about yourself.
My name is Justina. I was born and raised in Johnstown. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown with a B.S. in Psychology with a related area of Sociology. My husband Jim and I have been married for almost 11 years and have two high-spirited children, Isabella & Anthony. I love being in nature and consider myself to be a coffee aficionado. I am rarely seen without my cup of coffee!

What drew you to the CHW position in the first place? Do you have any past experiences that have prepared you for this role?
Before joining the HUB as a Community Health Worker, I worked at Beginnings, Inc. as a Parent Educator with their Parents as Teachers Program. PAT is a national home-visiting program for families with children prenatal through entrance into kindergarten. I would help families with resources, administer developmental assessments and bring education and activities that strengthen the parent/child relationship. Having a background in home-visiting has prepared me for my new position as a CHW. I strongly believe that past experiences, whether positive or negative, shape us into the individuals we were destined to be. On a personal level, my struggles with addiction and mental health have also prepared me for the role of CHW. Meeting my participants where they are at and helping to walk beside them is something I look forward to in my role as a CHW.

What is the most challenging or difficult part of being a CHW so far?
The most challenging part of being a CHW so far has been encountering gaps in services, and trying to navigate through them in order to help participants succeed. Although programs may be available for certain populations in our community, gaining access to the necessary programs can be difficult and time consuming for participants. When you compound these barriers with other issues such as mental health, disabilities, lack of support or domestic violence, participants may become overwhelmed and shutdown completely. My goal as a CHW, is to advocate for populations in our community and give them a voice they so desperately need.

If you could help people understand one thing about the clients you’re working with, what would it be?
If I could help people understand one thing about my clients, it would be that they are human beings, just like you and I. They may have fallen on hard times due to the pandemic, health issues, abuse, or an undiagnosed mental health issue. I was raised on the Golden Rule- treat others as you would want them to treat you. Clients shouldn’t be viewed as being lazy or looking for a handout. All of my clients are looking for a hand up, and I had people throughout my life who helped me when I needed it the most. I want to be that person for my clients.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies or hidden talents?
In my spare time, I spend time with my family. We enjoy camping, swimming and hiking. My hobbies include cooking and baking. I do not have any hidden talents that I know of, but if I come across one, I will be sure to update my interview.