Excellus BlueCross BlueShield recently awarded Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club a Health Equity Award of $30,000 to support Paths to a Healthier Me. This program focuses on strengthening the mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing of students in communities of color. Through the format of a wellness program, students and their family members are introduced to techniques and resources such as talk-therapy and workshops to address the stigma around mental health treatment, racial injustices, systemic racism, and finding support, as well as relaxation, stress relief tips, physical movement, and self-care.


“As we navigate through the pandemic, our students are adapting to a new normal that has heightened their thoughts and feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and insecurity,” explains U’nice Elliott, President of Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club. “In an effort to combat these struggles, this program will focus on strengthening students’ mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.”


The Mohawk Valley Frontiers is a dedicated volunteer civic service organization, established in 1971 in Oneida County. The local chapter strives to provide communities of color, in Utica and Rome, with programs and events that educate and uplift those in need of a hand up. A primary component of the Club’s effort is working with students in grades 4 through 12, Junior Frontiers, to foster participation in activities to build self-esteem, academic excellence, professional development, and civic responsibility.


Paths to a Healthier Me is designed for Jr. Frontiers students in grades 4 through 12 who have been overwhelmed with the struggles of coping with pandemic life, and pain associated with

witnessing and experiencing racism, racial injustice, loss of family or friends, and their pre-pandemic life structure.


“Our goal is to empower participants to become active in successfully addressing their own health concerns through education and connection to resources in their communities,” Elliott explains. By breaking down the stigma of asking for help, students will find support for mental health, improving self-esteem and self-image, and outlets for expressing creativity through movement and physical activity.



In the fall of 2021, Excellus BCBS introduced a new Health Equity Award funding opportunity and invited organizations throughout its service area to apply. These awards help fund programs to improve health equity in communities of color. These segments of our community continue to suffer from health care and social disadvantages due to racism and discrimination. Award categories included, but were not limited to, improving the community’s physical health and mental health, reducing social disparities in health care, and ensuring access to health care services.


“We are proud to further our commitment to health equity by supporting programs such as Mohawk Valley Frontiers Paths to a Healthier Me,” said Eve Van de Wal, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Utica regional president. “Through their work, they are improving the health and quality of life for future generations in our communities. By funding these local initiatives, we support our mission of helping our members live healthier more secure lives by improving access to care, advancing specific health outcomes and improving health equity.”


For the latest information on the health plan’s community investments and partnerships, visit https://news.excellusbcbs.com/news-room/community-investments-partnerships.

Excellus BCBS Utica regional president Eve Van de Wal presents Health Equity Award to Mohawk Valley Frontiers Club president U’nice Elliott.

If you’re not on our mailing list or receiving Member Mentions, please click here to sign up.