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Young woman holds older man's arm as she assists him

Spanish-Speaking Immigrants Find Opportunity in Home Health Training Program

In 2018, Rosalina Lopez was ready for a career change. She decided to venture from housecleaning and into eldercare, one of New Mexico’s fastest-growing industries.

But Lopez had trouble finding training in her primary language. She’s one of thousands of New Mexicans who may experience barriers to employment like lack of education, transportation and childcare — obstacles that can be more challenging for immigrants, like Lopez, with limited English proficiency.

Creating opportunity and stability

After learning about local nonprofit Encuentro from a friend, Lopez enrolled in the organization’s one-semester home health aide course taught in Spanish. During the program, she earned three industry-recognized certificates: personal care assistant, home health aide and first aid/cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

After graduating, Rosalina was referred to her first client through Encuentro’s client/HHA matching registry. “Caring for my first client made me realize the importance of providing high quality, compassionate home health care,” Lopez says. “Working as a home health aide independent contractor opened up opportunities for me to grow both financially and professionally.”

“Working as a home health aide independent contractor opened up opportunities for me to grow both financially and professionally.” 

— Rosalina Lopez, former Encuentro student

Beyond the classroom

Since its inception in 2016, more than 250 students have graduated from Encuentro’s nationally recognized Home Health Aide program. Most have become self-employed, earning an average of $26 per hour, compared to the average agency wage of $12 per hour.

“The majority of our graduates go on to work with their clients for several years — usually until the client passes away,” says Samantha Morales, Encuentro’s former home health and career development director. “They form incredible bonds with the families they serve.”

Woman wearing a mask speaks to a group

Rosalina Lopez working in her role as the economic opportunities coordinator for Encuentro’s HHA program.

Room for growth

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico awarded Encuentro a $25,000 Blue Impact grantSM to expand the HHA program so more older adults can receive better care and immigrant workers can earn a living wage on a viable career path that offers professional growth.

“Supporting our community members in the pursuit of economic opportunity and stability is a key priority of community giving at BCBSNM,” says Janice Torrez, BCBSNM president. “Encuentro is helping to remove barriers to employment by providing immigrant, Hispanic-Latino families with education and career development opportunities to build stability and prosperity for themselves, their families and their communities.”

As for Lopez, she credits Encuentro’s HHA program with changing her life for the better. In 2023, Encuentro hired her as the HHA program’s economic opportunities coordinator.

“I found my passion,” she says. “Now, my position at Encuentro allows me to advocate for my fellow domestic workers to have the same opportunities.”

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association