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Building a Framework for Success

We help individuals create change in their lives by addressing the root causes of their past predicaments, whether it was homelessness, poverty, incarceration, domestic violence, or addiction. We do this in a number of ways, beginning with life and job skills training and morning ‘Motivations’.

Personal Excellence classes focus on developing critical life skills.  These classes are built on the five Transformations listed below.  Students learn to apply these concepts to the issues of forgiveness, accountability and teamwork, to name a few, and are expected to incorporate these concepts and lessons into their daily lives, their job searches, and beyond.  Students and staff also apply the Transformations concepts as we gather every morning for an invigorating process called 'Motivations'.  One question drives each Motivation, such as, "Tell us about a challenge or obstacle you have overcome that will motivate someone else."  The community is united, inspired and energized through each individual's response.

Each student is required to demonstrate how he or she is applying the Transformation concepts throughout their tenure at Cara.  This iterative process ensures that students have fully absorbed these concepts and have already had a chance to apply the lessons they learned by the time they are placed in jobs.  

The Five Transformations

  • Change Your Behavior: Recognize and change the habits, actions and perspectives that sent you down the wrong path.
  • Look with New Eyes: See yourself, others and situations in affirming and profound ways.
  • Think Outside the Box: Use your creativity to overcome the fears, limitations and obstacles that confine you and prevent your success.
  • Don't Relax: Stay alert and always be aware of opportunities and risks.
  • Know the Deepest Truth of Who You Are: Understand your unique gifts, honor them, and share them with the community around you.

Developing Skills and Experience for Lasting Careers

We don't shield students from the realities they will face in the workplace; rather, we recreate the workplace here at Cara.  We deploy an experiential training approach that reaches beyond what we teach in the classroom and extends into the very fabric of every student's experience at Cara.  We give them a manager, a work team, and responsibility.  We make them accountable to themselves, accountable to their team, and accountable to the Cara community at large.  

Training that focuses on career development and job readiness begins with classes in professionalism, customer satisfaction, basic computer skills and interviewing competency.  Concurrent with this effort are wrap-around supports by a set of dedicated career and life coaches, whose mission it is to have each student achieve a 'job-ready' credential.  Think of this as a 15-point inspection that contains both skills attainment (e.g. completion of a valid, thorough on-line application, and attainment of minimum performance scores in mock interviews) as well as successful removal of barriers (e.g. housing stability, child care stability and ongoing stewardship of a recovery plan, if applicable). 

Then, based on their career assessments with our Corporate Account Managers, students may elect to participate in an internship or any number of trainings offered by Cara's external training partners.  Many of these trainings have been developed in tandem with our employment partners, in order to prepare Cara students with the specific skills that the employment partners demand.

During this entire process, students are still held accountable for applying the Transformations concepts and acting in a professional manner throughout the program.  They continue to gain confidence and learn to truly exhibit positive choice-making and professional conduct in their lives.    

The Impact

The Cara Program is a 4-Star Charity

Charity Navigator has awarded The Cara Program its most coveted 4-star rating!

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Our Partner Programs

  • Clean Slate
  • TCP Staffing

Our Supporters and Employers

  • Morgan Stanley
  • Kellogg Company
  • Lurie Children's Hospital
  • Mariano's
  • Rebuilding Exchange
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Sodexo
  • Salvation Army
  • Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
  • Levy Restaurants
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • Rivers Casino
  • Fitness Formula Clubs
  • Eataly Chicago
  • Housing Authority of Cook County
  • Catholic Charities
  • Harvard Maintenance Inc
  • Gotham Greens
  • Engineered Glass Products
  • The Habitat Company
  • Union League Club
  • Palmer House Hilton
  • Hilton Chicago O'Hare
  • Loretto Hospital
  • Resurrection Healthcare
  • Hyatt Regency Chicago
  • Hyatt Regency O'Hare
  • Hyatt Regency McCormick
  • Standard Parking
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Pierce and Associates
  • Mercy Housing Lakefront
  • Center For Working Families
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Cleanslate
  • ABM Janitorial Services
  • Allied Barton Security Services
  • ARAMARK
  • Bank of America
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