Our participants, alumni, staff, and larger community are the core of our deepest truth.
Our founder Tom Owens started Cara out of his car, driving from shelter to shelter to help connect people experiencing poverty and homelessness with gainful employment. Since then, Cara has grown from one person’s incredible vision to today’s team of 85 passionate staff members serving hundreds of job seekers each year in Chicago and beyond.
We realized early on that finding and keeping a job is tough for anyone, but especially if you are affected by poverty and the challenges and inequities associated with it. The road up out of poverty isn’t only about a job but the entirety of the person looking for one. That’s why we came up with our guiding principles that we call the “Five Ways to Transform Your Life,” recognizing that the journey is just as, if not more important than, the destination.
Our Five Transformations are:
In the words of our Director of Student & Alumni Affairs Jesse Teverbaugh, “We cannot teach where we are not willing to go,” which means our participants aren’t the only ones who practice our Five Transformations; Cara’s entire enterprise lives them out too. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that the deepest truth of Cara is ever-evolving but rooted in how we learn, grow, and work together to unlock the power and purpose within our communities and ourselves.
A picture of Jesse Teverbaugh leading Transformations training – Photo taken by Siskel/Jacobs Productions for The Road Up
Over the past year, Cara as an enterprise has collectively leaned into these Transformations more than ever before. We had to look with new eyes to shift our in-person classes, workshops, and services to a virtual world. Our social enterprises Cleanslate and Cara Connects never relaxed, working non-stop to make sure people could build their skills through transitional employment. We had to think outside the box to reach and onboard job seekers without being physically together. And we are simultaneously getting our participants into jobs while working with companies to change their hiring practices to be more inclusive.
But most of all, at the foundation of our deepest truth, is our participants and alumni who have kept our communities going by working on the front lines and proving what we’ve always known to be true; they are always essential.