Lavaunte has always been passionate about auto technology. Without the proper training, that passion, unfortunately, couldn’t translate into income. He needed more education, but as the youngest of five, no one in his family had ever had the option of attending college – until now.
Lavaunte was among a group of six students who participated in the Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas St. Rita’s pilot program. Launched last fall, it’s designed to remove barriers which keep people from the education needed to obtain livable wages. These barriers aren’t just financial. They include child care and lack of transportation.
The program is housed in Wyandotte County, where the Economic Development Council has reported that there are more than 1,400 unfilled skilled labor jobs paying $40,000+ per year. St. Rita’s works with Kansas City Kansas Community College’s Technical Education Center, assisting with enrollment. In addition, the participants must commit to attending mandatory sessions offered by St. Rita’s including intensive financial education classes. “We want them to be equipped to make effective decisions with their new income, once it’s achieved,” explains Sasheen Cutchlow, St. Rita’s Program Coordinator.
Professional skills training for job seeking, job retention and job success including full resume and application service, interview coaching and principles of successful work behavior are also required. “We focus on leadership training, creating a brand for yourself, work expectations, attitude and accountability,” adds Cutchlow.
Throughout the year, ongoing case management services are provided to students to assist and support their goals. Also, they receive help with food, clothing, rent or utilities and other resources through Catholic Charities’ Emergency Assistance programs.
For Kim Brabits, Vice President, Program Operations, who spearheaded St. Rita’s, the first year has been exciting. Five of the six initial participants finished with certifications in Auto Tech, Machine Tech and Major Appliance Repair.
The future looks much brighter for Lavaunte, who graduated with academic honors in Auto Tech. Within one week of getting his certification, he’s had two job interviews. His goal is to continue on to obtain his Diesel Technician certification.
Adds Brabits, “It’s been so rewarding to watch Lavaunte ‘come into his own’ and share his thoughts and passions for the skill of auto technology, and to know he’s off to a life-changing start.” v