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Freedom House 2.0 (Erie, Pa.)
Freedom House 2.0 (Erie, Pa.)

Life Changing Is ... Continuing a Legacy

Freedom House 2.0 (Erie, Pa.)

“We try to tailor this program to their needs so that it is truly a vision of the community.”

In April 2024, the Erie Center for Arts & Technology hosted a graduation ceremony for the region’s inaugural Freedom House 2.0 class.

Sponsored by UPMC Health Plan, Freedom House 2.0 is a six-week program that introduces participants in underserved communities to careers in health care. Graduates can apply for jobs as medical assistants, patient care technicians, community health workers, and more.

“Without programs like this, it’s really difficult for them to find their way into health care,” says Trevor Mathey, project manager, Freedom House 2.0. “It's great to have this truly entry-level training so they can just get some basic education and get their foot in the door.”

Nine graduates, including a mother-son duo from Nepal, made up Erie’s first class.

As part of the tuition-free program, participants attended classes Monday through Friday for six hours a day. They learned how to treat basic medical emergencies, take vital signs, perform CPR, and more.

“We want to set up a classroom environment that teaches them health care and teaches them community health work,” Trevor says.

That sometimes includes difficult discussions about suicide, homelessness, and food insecurity, Trevor says. Some of the participants may have experienced those or other difficult situations firsthand.

“We're doing it in a way that truly supports them in a wraparound service style — providing them as much support as we possibly can,” Trevor says.

Students receive a stipend and are provided laptops, transportation assistance, and childcare resources. Program officials incorporate participant feedback to better support the needs of each class.

 “We survey every student after every class,” Trevor says. “We try to tailor this program to their needs so that it is truly a vision of the community and their needs.”

Care centered around community 

Since Freedom House 2.0's launch in 2021, the program has continued to expand. The graduation of the first Erie class marked another exciting milestone.

The program's roots date back nearly six decades.

Freedom House 2.0 gets its name from the Freedom House Ambulance Service, which formed in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood in the 1960s. The groundbreaking ambulance service provided needed lifesaving emergency care to people in underserved communities.

Freedom House 2.0 looks to continue the legacy of its namesake by furthering opportunities for a diverse workforce.

Emily Lovallo, MD, emergency medicine physician, UPMC Mercy, serves as Freedom House 2.0’s medical director. She says data shows that people have better health outcomes when their care team reflects their community.

“That was really a big component of how we structured this program,” Dr. Lovallo says. “The goal (is) to diversify our workforce because we know that we’ll get better care for our patients, but also strengthen our communities and its members.”

According to Trevor, Freedom House 2.0 has placed more than 50% of graduates into positions with UPMC. He believes offering individuals upward career mobility benefits both the workforce and the community.

"We're able to bring them in and diversify our health care workforce,” Trevor says. “So, we can deliver even more quality care and quality medicine to that many more people."

Dr. Lovallo says her goal for Freedom House 2.0 graduates goes beyond job placement. She wants to see them leave the program as better people as well.

“(I want them) to understand the complexity of the things that shape the health issues that affect their neighbors, that affect their families, that affect our communities,” she says.

Dr. Lovallo believes communities are strengthened from the inside.

“If it's one person at a time, if it's one family at a time, that's how we build stronger communities that are going to be successful whatever they choose to do,” she says.

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means building stronger communities together.

Learn more about Freedom House 2.0 and how to enroll in an upcoming class.

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