I am Project HOME: Tyesha Hightower
This story originally appeared in our Spring 2019 Edition of News from HOME.
Nearly six years ago, Tyesha Hightower had graduated as a medical assistant and was looking for work in North Philly, where she grew up. She applied for a job at Project HOME’s first health clinic, on 24th and Berks in the old St. Elizabeth’s rectory, which was serving as our community center. The night before the interview, not knowing anything about Project HOME, she visited the address and sitting on a step across the street was a familiar face, Ms. Helen Brown. Ms. Helen was so excited about Tyesha applying for the job, because she was from the neighborhood, that she gushed about Project HOME’s mission and said, “Come on over Tyesha, we need you.” Tyesha was hired as Project HOME’s first medical assistant the very next day.
Those early days without funding were tough for the health clinic, but Tyesha was up to the challenge. “We were seeing patients in this old rectory,” she explains, “We didn’t have exam rooms, but we would see anybody who walked in.” Back then the clinic had about 300 patients; today the Stephen Klein Wellness Center (SKWC), which opened in 2014 at 2144 Cecil B. Moore Avenue, serves over 4,000 people annually. From the very beginning, Tyesha felt like she was part of a family where everyone was learning and growing together. “They support you in every step,” she says.
It was through Project HOME that Tyesha was able to buy her first home in the neighborhood, something for which she’s so grateful. She tries to pay that gratitude forward by showing her patients what’s possible for them, but she also recognizes what they’re going through. “They’ve been living in this area and around this neighborhood with this doubt all their life.” This is the reason Tyesha goes above and beyond for her patients, making sure they’ve got the right food to eat and even hosting a class every Thursday that’s a safe space for everyone in the community, not just patients from Stephen Klein Wellness Center. Through this class, called ‘Coffee and Conversation,’ Tyesha has seen firsthand the beauty and impact of her work. One woman who comes to the class, named Kim, deals with mental illness and homelessness. “Kim is a person, she doesn’t get respected on the streets, people ignore her,” Tyesha says. “She comes to this place, she feels so safe, people respect her, they ask her opinion.”
It was Project HOME’s mission that brought Tyesha to our clinic, and she receives daily motivation from her co-workers, like Lisa Greenspan, director of nursing at SKWC. “Lisa is my inspiration because of the care and love and support and patience she shows for every patient.” Tyesha’s learned from Lisa and other co-workers that it’s not just healthcare they provide at the SKWC, it’s holistic healing for every person who walks through their door. “I wanted to be something positive in my community and I wanted to help my own people,” she says, and every day Tyesha works to be the change that she wants to see in her community.