Promoting, instilling, and/or reflecting the values of individual and/or organizational thrift, humility, industry, self-sacrifice, and/or self-sufficiency.
The CARA Program
The problem being addressed: Almost twenty-five percent of Chicagoans live at or below the federal poverty level, a statistic made even more grim during the SARS-COVID-2 epidemic. Nearly another twenty-five percent of Chicagoans, on the edge of poverty and homelessness, are only one serious illness, accident, or job loss away from falling into this group. For many of these Chicagoans, barriers to employment—lack of high school degree or GED, challenges of addiction and recovery, limited education and job training, and prior criminal records—complicate the journey towards full employment and independence.
Program Description: Working with over one-hundred non-profit agencies as referral partners, The Cara Program (“TCP”) utilizes a recruitment process, developed over years from experience with its client demographic, that identifies those who are most ready and motivated to change their lives; candidates must complete a phone screening, attend a one-on-one interview, pass a drug test, and be clean and sober for at least four months prior to admission. TCP’s program consists of life and career skills training, both of which encourage the students to tackle the root sources of their life challenges.
The life skills training—known as the “Five Transformations” concept—involves courses on such topics as conflict management, accountability, forgiveness, and love and includes group exercises, individual reflection, and homework. The career skills training teaches students the hard skills that they will need in today’s job market, such as computer literacy, resume writing, interviewing, and online employment search. Advanced and specialized training is also available in-house and off-site with TCP’s corporate partners, which offers potential employers a first-hand chance to observe talent and character before conducting an interview.
TCP’s job placement program not only provides students essential job search skills, empowering them to conduct and manage their own searches, but also connects qualified applicants with TCP’s over one-hundred employment partners, including major corporations, financial institutions, and governmental and non-profit agencies. Once a student gets that first job, TCP continues its engagement with the student and employer for at least the first year of employment, helping TCP garner one of the highest job retention rates among Chicago’s job placement programs. Significantly, TCP both works with graduating students to encourage them to excel in the first job and, contemporaneously, provides strategic support for the next stages in the students’ careers, which are indispensable for persistence on the path toward independence.
Connection to Values: TCP’s program is exceedingly effective, because it is much more than just job training and placement. Self-knowledge, inner strength, and practical skills are at the critical core of that success, encouraging students to chart their own course to life-long independence. As such, TCP strongly connects to the Values of thrift, humility, industry, self-sufficiency, and self-sacrifice, as follows: thrift—students learn how to manage their finances in a way that permits them to survive daily and simultaneously plan for the future; humility—students exhibit the courage to recognize and deal with the personal challenges that stand in the way of leading successful, happy, and meaningful lives; industry—students work hard to confront and overcome those challenges and attain the skills necessary to win a job in a competitive market place; self-sufficiency—by working hard and attaining employment, students are able to care for and make decisions for themselves, thus making Chicago a better place for all to live; and self-sacrifice—students learn to forgo what may have been temporary pleasures and care for the larger group by giving of themselves for the benefit of others.
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