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Miami Dade College Leads with Initiative to Reach Students and Engage Community

Joe Pena is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

Joe Pena

Joe Pena is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

Miami Dade College (MDC) is the higher education institution with the largest campus-based enrollment in the United States, serving more than 165,000 students. Under the leadership of its president, Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, the institution has been elevated to national prominence for its innovation, programs of excellence, and service to the community.

President Padron designated me to coordinate a college-wide initiative to educate students, faculty, and the local community about their options under the Affordable Care Act. I was incredibly motivated to work on this project. Early on, we formed a partnership with Get Covered America, which sparked local community organizations and volunteers to assist with our efforts. We organized a series of successful educational outreach events, including workshops on multiple campuses. These events provided key information and enrollment assistance to all with an interest in signing up for health insurance.

The informational workshops were held on Saturdays and weeknights in the computer courtyards of four of our campuses stretching across all of Miami-Dade County. Holding these workshops in our computer courtyards allowed the trained assisters to educate the participants, explain the enrollment process, and answer questions directly.

Although I spearheaded this initiative, it came together as a result of the contributions of many in our institution.  For Miami Dade College, this was an “all hands on deck” project focused on our students and local community. From our College and campus leadership to our administrators to our computer technicians and support staff, we were all motivated to pitch in, educating and assisting others about their health care options. The College District Office of Communications played a key role in announcing our outreach activities, generating media attention, and encouraging all to visit the website.

In the next enrollment period, we plan to once again partner with Get Covered America and the other community organizations to run educational workshops and to engage our communications network. In addition, we are organizing “office hours” on our campuses, allowing students and community members to set up individual enrollment assistance appointments with the trained assisters from the community organizations.

This MDC initiative is credited with having made a significant impact, improving the access to health care for thousands of residents in Miami-Dade County and throughout South Florida. I am proud to have been a part of this effort and to have been designated a “Champion for Change”.

Joe Pena is the Director of Federal Relations for Miami Dade College.