Project REACH cohort

Announcing the Project REACH 2022-23 Cohort

Gao Vang

Three community leaders from rural Minnesota have been selected as the 2022-2023 cohort for Project REACH (Rural Experts Advancing Community Health), a joint initiative of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Program through the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Project REACH is a year-long program that provides diverse community leaders in rural Minnesota with health policy and leadership training. Participants learn to frame health policy challenges and how to communicate effectively with state legislators and other policymakers. Participants identify local challenges, build leadership skills to address the challenge, and develop and share a policy proposal with relevant decision makers. Throughout the program, participants will have access to mentorship from University of Minnesota faculty and staff. Travel expenses for training, meetings, and program materials will be covered. Participants receive a $1,200 stipend and a certificate of completion upon the end of the program.

Erin Schwab, a public health advocate, is dedicated to helping rural Minnesotans empower themselves to live their healthiest lives. Over the past 10 years, Schwab has been a voice for those unable to advocate for their health care needs and has gained a tremendous understanding of what advocacy looks like. Throughout her personal life and professional career, she has worked with children, families, and communities. Her goal is to provide health education and encourage community members to advocate for their own health needs. Schwab is passionate about improving community health by looking at health inequities, analyzing data, and finding solutions to improve the health of all. She works with local action teams promoting mental health and wellbeing, and aiming to increase awareness of addiction and substance abuse. In 2017, Schwab participated in the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disability's Partners in Policymaking, enhancing her leadership and advocacy skills. Schwab received her bachelor of science in public health with a concentration in public policy from Saint Catherine University in St. Paul. Through Project REACH, Schwab will work to impact policies related to access to mental health services and resources in Brown County. She lives in New Ulm with her husband, Aaron, and two sons, Austin and Max. When not working or helping her husband on his family's farm, she enjoys the north woods, reading, crafting, and spending time with her family and their dog, Trooper.

Jodi Tervo Roberts is an early childhood advocate with over two decades of experience working between educational and health systems, primarily with youth with special health needs in rural communities. She has a passion for supporting youth to thrive. She earned her master of science in exercise science from Northern Michigan University, and has a keen interest in improving community-wide social determinants of health. Roberts’ interest for policy, systems, and environmental change intensified after having two children with special health needs, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. She is excited for the opportunity to learn and grow in the field of clinical and translational science with other professionals in Minnesota. Through Project REACH, Roberts will work to impact policies related to access to early childhood services in Cook County. 

Jeanna Kujava serves as a public health director for a hospital based in Kittson County in Hallock, Minn. Kujava is a registered nurse and completed her bachelor of arts degree in nursing from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. in 1998. Kujava has worked in migrant health, rural hospital nursing, and school health. Her passion is in public health and the variety and challenges that come with it. She enjoys working with individuals and populations, particularly the opportunity to collaborate and build partnerships to improve health through policy, system and environmental change. Through Project REACH, Kujava will work to improve access to mental health services and trauma informed care in Kittson County. Kujava loves nature, coffee, reading, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Chad, have three young adult children and a golden retriever.

For more information on Project REACH visit: 

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