FSRI’s 2nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award

Since early 2019, Swanette has been working as a Community Health Worker (CHW) in our First Connections program; a program she first learned about while taking a CHW course in the community. In her role, Swanette works with newborns, caregivers, and their families to provide access to basic needs, services, and ongoing supports to ensure healthy outcomes. Swanette has also served as a Family Specialist in FSRI’s pilot DULCE program over the past year, where she is based in a pediatric care setting to help families address social determinants of health, promote the healthy development of their infants, and provide support to parents.

Swanette has always known that she wanted to work in the human service field helping others. She remembers as a young child translating for family members at doctor’s appointments and out in the community and thinking it wasn’t fair there weren’t more Spanish-speaking providers. Swanette is also fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), which she learned at the age of 5. She has taken her language skills and passion for helping others to shape her career. Before coming to First Connections, Swanette worked in both home-based and residential programs. This included briefly working in FSRI’s residential program at Farnum House in 2014 before getting an opportunity to work with Deaf youth at Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts.

Swanette is passionate about the First Connections program, the families she works with (especially the babies!), and her co-workers. One of her favorite parts of the job is building relationships and bonds with the families (and of course, playing with the babies!); many families stay in touch after services and continue to send pictures of their growing children. Swanette’s idea of a good day is when she is able to make contact with a family, form a connection, and help them in any way they need. The job has its many challenges though, especially over the past two years of the pandemic. Referrals to the program have skyrocketed and become more complex; whereas Swanette used to have had 4-5 visits per day pre-COVID, she now often has 8 or 9 per day. “You can never get bored working in First Connections!” she stated, and thinks constantly being flexible is key to the job. There are plenty of tough cases and visits, but Swanette leans on her co-workers, who she reflects are the best group she has ever worked with!

Swanette’s commitment to promoting equity in her professional life is just one of the reasons she was nominated for, and awarded FSRI’s 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Outside of FSRI, she is a dedicated and active member of the community. She volunteered for years with Providence Promise, an organization working to support Providence students in pursuing higher education, and has joined many virtual community groups during the pandemic to help lend a hand wherever needed.

Swanette stated she is honored to be recognized by the FSRI community in this way, and reflected the award means that much more since it is coming from those with whom she works, “an amazing group of people.”

Congrats Swanette and thank you for all you do for FSRI and our communities every day!

Previous First Connections: Allie’s Story