About Twin cities RISE!
460 Lexington Parkway N., Saint Paul
Twin Cities RISE! will host an open house in St. Paul Nov. 4 from 3 to 6 p.m.
As a result of extreme poverty and negative self-image, many struggle to find suitable employment. Since 1994, Twin Cities RISE! has helped to end the cycle of failure for individuals lacking education, resources and self-esteem, especially those battling with criminal histories or patterns of substance abuse. The belief at RISE! is that every person deserves a chance to soar. With a program that is free for participants, RISE! trains clients in job skills, helps them get GEDs, and places them in internships in the areas of office support, warehouse operations, and construction, with the goal of achieving permanent job placement.
Where RISE! differs from other job training programs is its focus — not strictly based on technical or “hard” skills, this program is rooted on teaching empowerment, meaning the cultivation of the “soft” skills of self-esteem, respect for self and others. Participants work one-on-one with a coach, learning skills for permanent placement in a career that pays living wages, benefits and offers opportunities for advancement. The goals are set by the clients, who learn they control their own destiny.
We spoke with both Shelly Jacobson, Chief Operating Officer, and Cynthia Micolichek, Director of Human Resources and Special Projects. Jacobson said the biggest challenge has been the time and commitment it takes to complete the program. “When you are hungry and need a job, you need a job. It is a real commitment to wait six, eight, or 18 months [clients choose from several options]. We do encourage participants to work part-time and offer day and evening classes for this reason. But people get nervous and scared,” she said. To make the program more accessible, RISE! partners with other agencies to deal with issues of transportation, childcare, housing, health and psychological care. “We want to bring positive things and be an anchor to help the community thrive,” added Micolichek.
RISE! serves those facing many obstacles with 58 percent of their clients having a criminal history. Many of the women have come from abusive relationships and are single parents. But the success rate has been astonishing with 82 percent of graduates still holding their jobs after one year, and 72 percent after two years. Graduates of the program also have an extremely low recidivism rate of 12 percent — compared to the national average of 61 percent. Even with the recent layoffs and economic downturn, RISE! steadily placed graduates in jobs in 2009 and 2010 with an average yearly income of $24,488.
“We strive to develop leaders in the community and in the marketplace. The graduates really stand out — we look for problem solvers, team players, people who seek solutions and have internal reflection,” said Jacobson. The most rewarding moment, both women agreed, is when a client achieves final job placement — a large bell rings in the hallway at RISE! to mark the occasion. “Everyone stops what they are doing and goes to celebrate,” said Jacobson, “and that is the most satisfying moment.”