COAHEC H.O.P.E. Program

COAHEC H.O.P.E. Program is one of two parts of COAHEC H.O.P.E. High school students engage in a series of live, monthly virtual sessions with like-minded individuals with shared interests and goals in health careers. Typically, these sessions occur during the high school academic year.

During a session, students learn from educational presentations, activities, and discussions highlighting health issues and related careers. Activities will provide hands-on opportunities to understand how healthcare professionals use their skills and knowledge to increase community wellness. Discussions will introduce students to students in different regions, facilitating a cohort of like-minded individuals with shared interests and goals.

For more information about this program please contact Dyllon Mills, Community Health Programs Associate at Southwestern Colorado AHEC, at [email protected] or [email protected]


Eligibility & How to Apply for the 2024-2025 Program

High school students, grade levels 9th through 12th, with interest in healthcare or health sciences careers are encouraged to apply. Registration for the 2024-2025 COAHEC H.O.P.E. Program is currently open and accepting applications. To apply, please visit and complete the form at

About the 2023-2024 COAHEC H.O.P.E. Program

The COAHEC H.O.P.E. Program for 2022-2023 has finished. Below are links to the recordings of the sessions as well as information about the presenters and a brief description of learning objectives.

Topic: Recognizing and Responding to Opioid Overdoses

Presenter: Neil Hanson, Western AHEC Outreach Coordinator, NW Colorado

Fentanyl is now a major public health crisis that impacts every community in Colorado. Students will learn the facts behind the current fentanyl epidemic and what’s being done about it, including steps you can take to protect yourself and your friends from an accidental overdose. We will also talk about the risks of prescription drug misuse in general and how to avoid them.

Topic: Enhancing Health Equity and Reducing Health Disparities

Presenter: Albert Majaliwa, community health specialist from Front Range AHEC; Berhe Godlo, health education coordinator from Front Range AHEC; Cindy Fernandez, lead community health worker from Front Range AHEC; Eric Stevens, president and CEO from Front Range AHEC; Ines Calvete Barrios, health education specialist from Front Range AHEC; Okany Rivas, Owner of ORM LLC.

Enhancing Health Equity and Reducing Health Disparities which focus on the several populations, including undocumented individuals, undocumented students, rural populations, and refugees. The learning objectives of this session are as followed:

  • Define the concept of health equity and health disparities.
  • Identify the social determinants of health.
  • Analyze how social determinants of health contribute to health disparities.
  • Recognize community members that are affected by health disparities.
  • Identify opportunities to advance health equity.
  • Have a sense of how a lack of health equity impacts our lives in our communities.

Topic: Conversation about Stigma & How it Impacts Health

Presenter: Anita Martinez, BSN, RN, DNP from San Luis Valley AHEC; Ruth Horn, MA, LPC, NCC from San Luis Valley AHEC. The learning objectives of this session are as followed:

  • Define the three types of stigmas.
  • Have a working knowledge of what implicit bias is.
  • Have a general working understanding of how stigma impacts health.
  • Obtain basic information on ways to mitigate the impact of stigma on health.

Topic: The Influence of Culture: Healing Health Disparities in Native Americans

Presenters: Chelsie Begoody, community health programs associate at Southwestern Colorado AHEC; Dyllon Mills, community health programs associate at Southwestern Colorado AHEC; Luis Ramirez, public health intern; Imo Succo, MSW, Program Manager/Regional Health Connector at Southwestern Colorado AHEC; Sammy Antez Jr., volunteer peer recovery coach for Indigenous Wellbriety Program. Learning objectives follow. Students will be able to:

  • Define the concept of cultural humility.
  • Understand how awareness about Native American culture can positively impact health, and healthcare delivery for tribal community members from a Diné (Navajo) perspective.
  • Recognize the role that Native American culture plays in healing existing health disparities as well as substance use addiction in Southwestern Colorado.
  • Understand the trajectory of the native food system.

Topic: Oral Health Including Health Equity

Presenter: Mirella Chavez Program Officer Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation Mirella Chavez holds a Bachelor of Science in health care management from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a double minor in sociology and leadership studies. In her current role as Program Officer, she focuses on leading Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation workforce initiative aiming in further reduction of access to care barriers and increasing culturally and socially relevant oral healthcare by creating a more racially and ethnically diverse oral health workforce. What she appreciates most about her job is being able to pursue both her personal goals and professional passions with equal gusto – honestly, she believes it makes her a better team member and individual. The learning objectives of this session are as followed:

  • Use a broad definition of health that includes social determinants.
  • Reflect on how conditions of power shape social determinants and health inequities.
  • Identify opportunities to operationalize strategies to advance health equity in your own work, education, or training.

Topic: Health Literacy

Presenter: Samantha Vernon, MPHc program coordinator at Centennial AHEC. Learning objectives:

  • What is health literacy and why is it important?
  • How do we build health literacy in community health programs?
  • How does health literacy impact patient services in healthcare?
  • Heads-on Learning Activity!

2021-2022 Recordings of COAHEC H.O.P.E. Program Sessions

Public Health Epidemiology: Disease Detectives presented by Kate Hartzell, MA, MAT, MPH, the Executive Director at Southwestern Colorado AHEC

Nutrition presented by Eva Muniz Valdez, RN, BS, ADS, the Health Programs Manager at Southeastern Colorado AHEC

Health Equity presented by Alexis LaPrelle, MS, CHES, the Health Education Coordinator at Front Range Colorado AHEC

The Power of Addiction: The Effect on Community present by Charlotte Ledonne, RN, BSN, MA, LPC, the Nursing Education Coordinator at San Luis Valley Area Health Education Center

Bouncing Back: Healthy & Strong Post-COVID presented by Terry Chase, ND, MA, RN hosted by Western Colorado AHEC

Community Health present by Samantha Vernon, the Program Assistant at Centennial Area Health Education Center