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Jennifer Cabrera, Director of Special Projects, Project Management Office 

Jennifer Cabrera had been on the job less than two months when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Born and raised in Worcester, Jennifer had worked as a business analyst for a large insurance company, becoming adept at analyzing and assessing their information technology (IT) systems. She joined UMass Memorial Health – Community Healthlink (CHL) as a project manager in January 2020, fulfilling a dream to work in the nonprofit sector and serve her community. Then, the coronavirus changed everything.

“It was all hands on deck,” Jennifer recalls. “We needed to transition all staff to telehealth and help them learn to use it immediately. The services we provide to clients weren’t going to stop. I realized, ‘This is exactly why I’m here.’” Jennifer worked with the IT Department and CHL staff to keep vital services up and running – services that help the region’s adults, children and families recover from the effects of mental illness, substance misuse and homelessness.  

In 2021, Jennifer became Director of Special Projects, managing several projects including grant-based programs such as Project WORTH (Working on Reclaiming Their Health), which provides medical, behavioral and case management services to individuals who identify as female in Worcester County who have been sexually exploited. She now leads a team of two project managers who are committed to CHL’s mission and continuously work to improve CHL’s services – managing strategic priorities, removing barriers, facilitating dialogue, identifying gaps and needs, and collaborating with internal and external resources.

Jennifer supports our culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging by participating on our Standards of Respect, Diversity and Inclusion, and CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) committees. Through her commitment to help improve health equity for the clients we serve, she contributes to our relentless pursuit of supporting our communities.

“My parents moved to Worcester in the 1970s from Colombia,” Jennifer shared. “They worked extremely hard to provide for our family. They taught us, ‘Work hard. Do your best. Stay positive. Respect one another.’ English wasn’t their first language, but that didn’t hold them back. The lessons I learned from them help me in my work today.”

Jennifer and her team lead trainings on the Standards of Respect to help new staff understand their importance and how they can guide a positive work experience daily … and that their voices matter. “Never hesitate to raise your ideas,” Jennifer said. “Acknowledge your teammates through the UMatter [Central] platform. Give shoutouts to your people. Let them know they're doing a good job. That's what helps us build rapport and retain staff."  

A former soccer player, Jennifer now keeps her energy up by running and salsa dancing. But when it’s time to relax, she spends it with family and friends. She said she is glad she switched careers and joined CHL. “I chose this organization for a reason, and I’m learning a lot from it,” she said. “I wanted to apply my knowledge, skills and experience towards my community. Now was the time, and I’m glad I’m here. We’re a collaborative team dedicated to improving health equity to better serve people who are the most vulnerable in Central Massachusetts.” 

To read more stories like Jennifer's, visit everyoneeveryday.org.