Every week this past month, Danielle Turcola has come to Micah to train our members of our Micah Community in professional development skills. At first, her pencil black dress, professional blue blazer, finely done makeup, and intentional way of speaking were met with hesitation and reluctance. She began with introductions, and as each guest shared their name she offered compliments and jokes. Clearly, there was more to this woman than it seemed.
As the discussion found its rhythm, Danielle asked the group if they knew what their dress colors were. Confused, but eager to participate, one guest half-joked that black was the only color he wore. Danielle introduced the idea of colors as seasons, and we learned that almost everyone in the room is a spring–no more black for any of us! To make her point, Danielle dressed one guest in a light brown blazer and baby blue collar shirt, instantly bringing out his bright blue eyes. Another person in the room commented, “I never realized how blue your eyes were until you wore that!” At the end of her first class, female students enjoyed the opportunity to apply blush and lipstick that highlighted their features, proving to their partners that lipstick is NOT just for clowns.
The power behind Danielle’s lessons are not only in her 28 years of experience, but her unwavering conviction that every person has potential for success. Before meeting any of her students, Danielle came to Micah with armfuls of collar shirts, blazers, and khakis wrapped in dry-cleaner bags. She knew this arsenal of business casual would be the key to empowering her students with confidence. After her first session, a workforce trainee came to Micah wearing nice, clean boots because, “I wanted to look nice for work.” Another student came back with a trimmed beard, shaved jawline, and a radiant smile. Future lessons include how to ask questions that create opportunities, how to handle awkward situations diplomatically, how to resolve conflict, and other life skills that create success in the workplace and beyond.
What Is Bridge to Work?
The newly-launched Bridge to Employment program offers intensive support and training for homeless neighbors to become competitive, skilled candidates in the workforce. Through community partnerships with local employers, the project bridges participants from supportive, in-house volunteer experiences to mainstream, gainful employment over a minimum of 5-6 months. The bridging process occurs in a 3-stages:
• Volunteer trial-work site
• Paid Internship with a transitional employer
• Mainstream Employment
Throughout the bridging process, participants receive weekly evaluations, attend empowerment classes to groom soft skills and build confidence, set career goals and receive coaching from an employment specialist. As they demonstrate success in the initial stage, Micah matches them with a community employer and pays them for 30-60 days. The goal is that employer partners will be satisfied with their trainees and offer them a permanent job at the end of their training. The cost of taking one person through this process is $1,500.