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Get to Know Angel Williams, Healthy CPS Network Specialist

As the Healthy CPS Network Specialist, Angel Williams connects students and families to resources-- and research to practice. She serves as a navigator and technical assistance provider for Chicago Public Schools, assisting them in implementing health education, health services, nutrition, and physical activity opportunities. The P3RC core research project is evaluating the feasibility and impact of incorporating this unique role into school wellness activities. Below, Angel discusses her work with schools, students, families, and researchers.

Many of my school relationships have evolved into the present day, with schools identifying my role and responsibilities as essential in efforts to ensure students and staff have equitable health and safety.

Interview with Angel Williams Heading link

A headshot of Healthy CPS Network Specialist Angel Williams

By working with a select set of schools in one Network you are able to develop a long-term relationship with each school’s leaders. Can you talk about how some of those relationships have evolved over the past year and a half since you started supporting schools in the 2000-2021 academic year?

My goal in supporting schools is to develop a close relationship with them, in order to provide a more individualized level of support that is welcomed by administration and school staff. My role as the Healthy CPS Network Specialist began remotely due to COVID-19. There has been a shift over the past year from fully remote supports and guidance to a more hybrid approach, with both remote and in-person support visits. Many of my school relationships have evolved into the present day, with schools identifying my role and responsibilities as one that is essential in efforts to ensure students and staff have equitable health and safety, which provides key guidance on how this can be done, rather than principals having to read it in some sort of unclear email or search for unclear answers within a guidance document.

This is has been such a turbulent time for schools. Can you talk about how the support you are providing to schools has played a role during the pandemic?

Pandemic response supports have been both solicited by school administrators and identified as a necessary support based on trending data. There has been a need to provide information and transparency to staff as well as families about (what some may call cumbersome) COVID-19 contact tracing, schoolwide safety mitigation guidelines, and vaccination opportunities. I have been essential in providing all of these supports to schools in various ways, including: 1. Regular school informational sessions to provide clarity around COVID-19 and available supports; 2. Conducting safety mitigation school visits to ensure schools are implementing and maintaining the highest level of COVID-19 safety practices; and 3. Providing regular pandemic support resources (food & clothing), vaccination, and health services event opportunities.

Now that school buildings have opened, most Network and District staff are also working in person again too. How has being able to be in schools and be in-person enhanced your ability to work in schools and in the community?

As schools have returned to in-person attendance, there has been a heightened focus among the Network Chief, school administrators and staff on ensuring schools operate safely. My ability to now visit schools, and see the communities that surround them, gives me a better understanding of what the schools have and are in dire need of, as it pertains to external community resources. I am also able to identify, by being a field-based employee, the many hidden community resources that are within distance for schools to utilize in assisting families. Visiting schools in person is definitely the best way for me to see with my own eyes what is going on inside the school and determine the health and wellness culture and practices that take place within each school. This helps me determine the individualized supports and guidance needed, that schools may not be aware of.

Starting a new position that has never before existed must be exciting but also challenging. What have you learned? How have you grown in the position since you started?

Embarking on the challenge and adventure of a new position project has been challenging but rewarding. I have learned to be more flexible yet organized with my time, as I work with and around school schedules and priorities, while also keeping track of each school’s identified or solicited tiered level of supports. I have also learned to be more open to learn and expand my capacity of knowledge. There are many instances where at first I did not understand the need to assist with internal projects or initiatives as a simple thought partner. But those initiatives played an important role in answering a question for a principal or school staff regarding what I had learned, from previous informational meetings. I have also learned how important it is to provide learning opportunities, in the most professional way for school administrators and Wellness Champions, in order to ensure full buy-in and understanding of the importance of health and wellness within the school setting.

I have grown in this position from just being quiet, observant, and hearing the expectations of this role, to being able to have courageous conversations with all stakeholders (Network Chief, CPS CEO, principals, parents, external agencies, & staff) about important and relevant health content, taking the initiative to develop useful documents and tools to guide my day-to-day work, and truly growing in the Network to embed myself into the administrative support structure as an essential staff member who is sought out for my expertise in the area of health and wellness.

More about Angel Williams Heading link

My educational journey has been long but rewarding. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Healthcare Administration in 2016 at DeVry University in Chicago, Illinois. In 2019, I graduated with my Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management, from Keller School of Graduate Management, also located in Chicago, Illinois.