All About Motivations at Cara

Cara Staff

If you’re curious about what makes Cara so special as a job training and readiness program, Motivations is something you should know more about. 

Our morning Motivations is a long-time tradition that drives participants through the job search process

“There is no gathering more emblematic of Cara’s special sauce than Motivations.” 

Monday through Thursday mornings, you’ll enter Cara and hear people singing, clapping, and cheering. This is our morning Motivations, a tradition so ingrained in the Cara way—and so unique to it—that it has become a vital part of our culture. To help explain the significance of this daily ritual, we also asked members of our team to speak out about what Motivations mean to them. 

How Motivations Began

“It’s a better way to start the day than coffee.” 

Back in 2002, when Cara was small and still operating out of a convent at Old St. Patrick’s Church, our former CEO, Eric Weinheimer, discovered something interesting. During a discussion with Cara participants, he learned that one of the key factors holding them back from being successful was fear—the fear of being employed, of being sober, of getting their children back. Their fear was real and a big obstacle to overcome, but it led to an incredible idea. 

Eric told participants to bring motivational sayings to share the following day, but he added a new assignment to help participants learn to confront their fears: to prepare a song to sing in front of the group. The group of participants gasped, but the next day, they came prepared. Amid the sharing and singing, there was also dancing, crying, and a palpable sense of relief. Cara had discovered something truly special. From that day on, we worked to formalize this morning routine as Motivations. Now, it’s an essential part of our process that digs into the concept of facing your fears and letting yourself be vulnerable in front of others. 

Defining Motivations

“Each morning, the circle holds a sacred place to be vulnerable and surprised by where you might find your dose of inspiration.”

Motivations is how we create a sense of community and belonging so vital to our mission to unlock the power and purpose within each of us. It also serves as an exercise that challenges and prepares participants for finding and keeping a job. 

During each session, everyone in the room, from participants to staff members to guests, sits in a circle to provide enthusiasm and support for the people tapped to go into the circle to share. Those tapped to go into the circle are expected to speak to that morning’s topic in an honest, thoughtful way that gives insight into their story. Then, they sing a few bars of a song that inspires them, bringing everyone together for a rousing wake-up call. This process enlivens the atmosphere and boosts morale for the whole day moving forward. 

What Motivations Does

“Motivations is a valuable tool for getting to know our participant community and the obstacles they’re working to overcome.”

Born from the idea of challenging fears to move beyond them, Motivations gives participants a chance to fully face two of the most common fears: speaking and singing in public. At Cara, they then have a platform to be open, honest, and vulnerable in a room full of people who are there to uplift and empower them. In this way, Motivations serves participants as both a therapeutic exercise and as an avenue for personal and professional growth. 

Motivations is also the thread that ties our community together here at Cara. Everyone needs a space where they can feel completely accepted and willing to share. This circle provides a daily opportunity to connect with others and relish in feeling the joy, generosity, and hospitality radiating from each of us. 

The Impact of Motivations

“Motivations is an equalizer—it isn’t clear when you walk in who is a participant, employer, or staff member. We’re all there just as people to share deeply personal stories of struggle and strength and to hold space for each other.”

Motivations is the best tangible example of Cara’s mission and values, and Cara alumni like Ricardo and Sarita point to it as their first impactful experience at Cara. That’s why we invite more than just Cara insiders to join us for this morning routine. Anyone is welcome, but extra special guests of the past have included Chicago Mayors Lori Lightfoot and Rahm Emanuel, Senator Dick Durbin, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and comedian extraordinaire Bill Murray.

You don’t have to be a policymaker or celebrity to join us at Motivations. When it’s safe again, plan your visit to meet our incredible team and experience inspiration at its rawest, purest form. Interested in learning more about Cara? If you need help starting your career, apply to join Cara, and start your transformational journey today.

 

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