The first Mock Interviews session at San Jose Obrero Mission (SJOM) came as a surprise to many of the male residents that would be participating that day. I showed up with five volunteers, my curriculum, and approached my excited site representative for the session. After explaining the program to the volunteers, we started the interviews. The first resident I worked with was Michael*, and he did not seem quite as eager as I was.
Michael was hesitant to sit down with me; he said he already had a job and did not need the extra practice. I sat with Michael anyway and talked to him about the importance of honing his interview skills. Michael agreed to humor me, and we worked through one interview together. After the session was over, I shook his hand and provided him with our job coaching packet. As I was getting up, Michael asked if we could go through it again. So, we completed a second interview.
As the project was ending, Michael talked about how I had asked him questions that he is always hesitant to answer. He explained that he now knows what to put on his resume, and what questions are appropriate to ask his interviewer, something he has never done before. We parted ways and I said I would see Michael for his interview next month.
During our Mock Interviews program at SJOM, our volunteers conduct one-on-one interviews with the male residents of the shelter. Currently, there is one staff member that coordinates the job coaching program at both the men’s and women’s center, as well as the other educational opportunities. Because of this, the residents are not always able to get the individual help that would assist with their job searches.
Imelda Rodriguez, our community partner representative, sees that Chicago Cares’ program and volunteers are helping SJOM’s residents gain essential life skills. “Mock Interviews is about practicing how to get better and better. Chicago Cares has been helping us help the homeless population at SJOM. Volunteers are helping [our residents] get the skills so our participants can cross from the unemployed side to the employee one, which means getting a better life style.”
Chicago Cares has numerous adult education programs that include Mock Interviews, ESL tutoring, GED preparation, US Citizenship coaching, and job coaching. These volunteer opportunities provide the students of these programs with the individual attention they need to be successful in their particular class. In US Citizenship Coaching, we review the exam with the students so the participants can not only practice their English, but take away some of the anxiety of taking the exam in hope that they will pass. In Job Coaching, we provide the residents of the shelter with the tools to write resumes so that they feel confident when turning in job applications. Our adult education programs have the ability to reach clients in numerous community areas of Chicago, but they need your support in order to do this.
A donation of $50 through our I Care campaign can provide the Mock Interview curriculum for an entire year. This donation would engage 72 volunteers and help 120 residents with their job search. Please consider making a donation to Chicago Cares and helping our adult education programs grow.
*name changed for privacy purposes.
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Every year, an estimated 21,000 former Illinois prisoners will settle within the Chicago city limits. Formerly incarcerated individuals are often faced with unemployment, homelessness, lack of familial support, as well as health issues. With various obstacles in their way, an estimated two-thirds of individuals who were released from prison are rearrested within 3 years of their release. However, there are resources in Chicago that help individuals stay supported and out of prison.
St. Leonard’s Ministries was founded with the hope of providing comprehensive services to men and women who were formerly incarcerated. One of their facilities is St. Leonard’s House—an interim housing facility that provides comprehensive services for men that return to the community from Illinois prisons. The individuals that come to St. Leonard’s want a safe environment to get back on their feet, and the services that St. Leonard’s provides helps residents achieve their goal.
On the last Tuesday of every month, Chicago Cares holds a discussion group called Real Talk. Volunteer leader, Alex Fenske, creates a new topic each month, which is then discussed by Chicago Cares volunteers and the residents. The topics have ranged from health care reform to social networking, and last month, the residents had a discussion on Governor Quinn’s new budget plan that would close two prisons and two juvenile detention centers.
Alex has been a member of the Chicago Cares community for several years, and has led the Real Talk program since 2008. This discussion based program model is different than other adult education programs. For someone who has done several projects with Chicago Cares, Alex has a unique perspective on this volunteer opportunity and how it ties into volunteer work.
“Sometimes people ask me how this project is community service, because at a glance the service aspect may not be obvious. I explain to them that for men who have recently been released, they can’t go anywhere or do anything without being labeled as an ‘ex-con.’ After spending anywhere from a couple years to a few decades in prison with virtually no rights and privileges, I think the men at St. Leonard’s are appreciative just to have a regular conversation with people they don’t know who don’t treat them as ‘ex-cons’ and don’t have an agenda to push.”
The men that come to St. Leonard’s reside there by choice; they want to remain stable after being incarcerated, and the numerous services at St. Leonard’s help them achieve this goal. “The residents there are the few who have gone through Illinois’ “correctional system” – which is not correctional at all – and decided to correct themselves by their own accord. That decision and the commitment required to see it through take enormous strength and effort, and the opportunity to talk with these men who have seen and conquered such struggle is inspiring,” Alex said. “For the volunteers, it’s enlightening to hear opinions from people with life experiences they likely would not otherwise encounter; hearing those different perspectives keeps us all grounded.”
If you are interested in this opportunity, come and check out one of our upcoming Real Talk projects.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )