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West Side health care group awarded $3 million grant

Darlene Hightower, vice president of Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center, celebrates a $3 million grant awarded to West Sid United by JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday. She's flanked by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, Peter Scher, head of corporate responsibility at Chase, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. | Carlos Ballesteros, Sun-Times

A West Side health care group will increase training to help health care workers get higher-paying jobs with a $3 million grant announced Thursday.

West Side United said it will double its medical assistant certification program and add programs for full-time health care workers who want to earn certification in health information technology or as nursing assistants. Overall, the three programs will serve about 70 people.

West Side United is a partnership created in 2018 by a group of Chicago hospitals and health care providers, including Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, and Rush University Medical Center.

The $3 million grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. will be received over three years. West Side United is one of five recipients of the bank’s “Advancing Cities Challenge,” which aims to boost job creation and help small businesses nationwide. The other four recipients are based in Louisville, Kentucky; Miami; San Diego; and Syracuse, New York.

West Side United plans to use $400,000 for a small-business grant program for West Side businesses. The organization distributed a total of $85,000 in business grants in 2018.

“From our listening sessions, community residents repeatedly talked about the importance of living-wage jobs,” said Ayesha Jaco, program director for West Side United. “The grant will help us significantly scale career pathway programs, [and] will let the community know that we heard them and are taking action to meet their needs.”

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South and West sides.