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Why I Champion Cara: Kathleen S. Caliento

Meet Kathleen S. Caliento, this week’s highlighted Champions for our Giving Tuesday campaign. We spoke with Kathleen to find out why she champions Cara.

What is your current affiliation to Cara?

“I’m currently the President & CEO of Cara Collective.

How did you originally become connected to Cara Collective?

I got connected to Cara when [former Cara President & CEO] Maria Kim and I founded Epic Academy back in 2008. That was the first time I heard about Cara and the work that Maria was doing. I immediately thought it was an incredible organization and loved the impact that it was making. However, I didn’t see what Cara was all about until I was the Executive Director at Spark Chicago and took my staff to a morning Motivations. Just being in the nonprofit space, Cara and the impact that we make has always been seen as a gold standard to me and my peers. It’s been really exciting and important to me to find ways to stay involved in that impact.”

How and in what areas has Cara inspired you to grow?

“Cara is the largest organization that I’ve had the pleasure of leading. Since I became CEO, Cara has really stretched me in great ways to think about all the complex pieces of the organization, how they work together, and how we can continue to grow on a national scale. For me, it’s been all about not only recognizing the work, impact, and the participants that we serve, but also recognizing the people who help make that happen. Cara has also helped me grow by increasing my understanding of the complex issues and systemic challenges that find us where we are today. With poverty, lack of access to education, lack of access to health care, gender discrimination, and racism, there are so many pieces that are intertwined. Being a part of the workforce development world, it’s important to understand the barriers people face to gainful employment and to use that knowledge to help dismantle them.”

It’s important to understand the barriers people face to gainful employment and to use that knowledge to help dismantle them.

– Kathleen S. Caliento

What about Cara motivates you to champion us in the various ways that you do?

Personally, it’s watching our participants’ lives being transformed. Watching them become able to provide for their families, believe in themselves, and realize that they do deserve the best that life has to offer, it’s absolutely incredible. Cara is helping people see that they do not have to be defined by their past. That’s powerful and that motivates me to champion Cara.”

What’s your favorite Cara memory?

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve created my favorite memory just yet – and that’s because I know we still have so much in store that I’m excited about. There has been many moving moments I’ve experienced though, from the first time attending a Motivations to meeting the staff in person to getting the call that I got the role of President. Also, reading the stories of the participants who were placed into employment in our job placement emails has just been the icing on the cake. On Fridays, I’ll open those placement emails and read these inspirational stories of people getting their first job or advancing in their careers, it’s so amazing.”

Motivations Question: Who/what inspired you give 100% this year?

Definitely my daughter. Seeing the world through her eyes and knowing that she already has a different experience than I had growing up, it challenges me to think about how I help her recognize everyone does not live how she lives. That’s why we do what we call in our family “Service Saturdays,” where she is able to feed and talk with people experiencing homelessness, package food for folks who are experiencing poverty, and put together book bags for kids who don’t have books at shelters. For me, it’s important for her to understand the impact of that because she is a part of our world’s future. She motivates me to not only remind her, but remind all of us the bigger picture of why we’re doing this work.

As we wrap up our 30th anniversary year, we want to make it the best one yet. Please consider making a gift as your support ensures that more job seekers will receive their new beginning over our next 30 years.