Posts Tagged ‘ living wages ’

Toni Carter

Toni Carter

Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter

In 1971, Toni Carter moved to Northfield, Minn. to attend Carleton College — a liberal arts school located near the Twin Cities. Upon graduating, she moved to St. Paul, where she became an active member in the community.

“As a young person coming here from Carleton, I was active in a lot of ways,” Carter said of her beginnings, “I was an artist and a performer who became very involved with theatre.”

Upon entering her mid-twenties, however, her lifestyle began to shift. “My activities changed as I grew up and had children,” Carter said, “and I became involved with business and the community in a much deeper way.” Now, after more than 30 years of service to Ramsey County, this deep involvement has not gone unnoticed.

Carter is currently the Commissioner of District 4 in Ramsey County and has been since 2005. In the years since her term began, the Commissioner has dedicated herself to a variety of issues and hopes to continue doing so through re-election in November.

One of the Commissioner’s top priorities is the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line — the transportation corridor that will link downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis. While the construction continues on this project, the Commissioner plans to focus on support for local businesses and neighborhoods, and resolve outstanding issues such as parking.

“The Light Rail Transit is really good for a number of reasons,” the Commissioner said. “We know for sure that it will create jobs — at least for a period of time.”

Other county projects that will allow for job expansion include the restoration of the Roseville Library and the creation of new buildings around the city. “We hope to have a continual flow of work in order to ensure jobs for years to come,” she said, “we want to create living wages for the people in our community.”

The Central Corridor Light Rail will also create new opportunities for quality, affordable housing — a change that can already be seen in many areas of the community. “People can see the structures being built and they get amped up because of it,” she said.

The Commissioner believes that new jobs and more housing will have a positive effect on youth in the community. “Making jobs available is key to creating a vibrant home environment,” she said. “We need to work together in order to provide the best for our children.”

One program the Commissioner uses to reach youth is the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative — a systems reform that reduces the number of detained youth in detention centers in Ramsey County. Since 2005, the number of detained youth has decreased by 70 percent. The Commissioner plans to continue building support and spreading the initiative statewide.

Along with her duties as Commissioner of District 4, Carter also serves as chair of the Association of Minnesota Counties Human Services Policy Committee, and of Ramsey County’s Legislative, Human Services and Workforce, and Juvenile Detention Alternatives Stakeholder Committees. Commissioner Carter also serves on the leadership teams of Ramsey County’s Workforce Investment Board, the Saint Paul Children’s Collaborative and the Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative.

Twin Cities RISE!

Twin Cities RISE! St. Paul location

Twin Cities RISE! St. Paul location

About Twin cities RISE!

460 Lexington Parkway N., Saint Paul
(651) 603-0295

Open House

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.”