It sounds strange, but, according to Ebony Henderson, a broken leg turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She says the unfortunate injury led her to Malcolm X College’s Community Health Care Worker (CHW) program and the best job of her life.

As a resident of the Austin neighborhood, Malcolm X was Ebony’s closest City College. She first took classes there in 1995 and returned in 2018 because of its focus on healthcare education.

Ebony started in the school’s nursing program, but, in January 2020, she broke her leg. The injury left her bedridden for six months, and she had to learn to walk again. While recovering, Ebony discovered Malcolm X’s CHW program.

Ebony liked that community health workers help underserved communities and bridge equity gaps. She recognized the food and healthcare inequities in her own community, and she wanted to do something about it.

“That was the draw for me in knowing we could possibly affect change in these communities that were lacking in knowledge, understanding, and resources,” she said.

The CHW program was also attractive to Ebony because she would be able to complete it online in just one semester. Due to the pandemic and her broken leg, and with her daughter in e-learning at home, the virtual option was critical. Most importantly, it helped Ebony at a difficult time when she was struggling with depression.

“This Community Health Care Worker program gave me purpose,” Ebony explained. “It was a healthy distraction.”

For Ebony, that purpose and passion—combined with some help from her professors—led to her dream career at Rush University. In fact, it was her professor for the field experience portion of the CHW program, Dr. Lisa Aponte-Soto, who told Ebony that Rush was hiring and encouraged her to apply.

She was hired in March 2021 as a contact tracer to do community health work. Then, she was promoted two months later to Lead Community Health Worker. Ebony now supervises a team of six who are responsible for contact tracing, community events, and vaccine support. She’s even returned to Dr. Aponte-Soto’s class the past three semesters to speak with students in the CHW program.

“Being hired as a community health worker at Rush has allowed me to use every bit of the knowledge I gained from being in the Community Health Care Worker program at Malcolm X,” she said.

Ebony is now in the process of getting her bachelor’s degree in public health. She says she’s not just doing it for herself, but for her daughter, too.

“I might be 46, but I’m not stopping,” she shared. “I continue to get my education and grow, and it’s never too late.”

And Ebony’s daughter is extremely proud.

“She brags all the time that her mom works at Rush.”