Da’Sean on what it means to be a leader at Cara
In honor of Black History Month, we interviewed leaders in our Cara community, as they reflected on being a Black leader and what this month means to them. First up is Cara employee, Da’Sean Hillsman, Manager of Coaching and Retention at Cara Collective.
“I joined Cara in September 2010. I was searching for a job after coming home from being incarcerated, and I had a friend who referred me. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I decided to give it a chance. First, I joined Cleanslate. Shortly after, I made a year on the job at ABM.
“My Cara coach at that time, Lynnette, called me while I was doing janitorial work at ABM and had the idea for me to work for Cara. I kind of chucked a little bit, I didn’t think she was serious. But she was, so I came and I worked with facilities for about 6 months, when a coaching position opened up. Lynnette then suggested that I apply for that position, which I also found funny at first. I think one of the reasons that she asked me to go for it is because while I was in the facilities role, I taught a few classes. Back then, they had staff members teach sometimes. I would always volunteer, and I built a good rapport with the participants. I would be encouraging and understanding since I knew what they were going through. I interviewed for the position, got hired, and have been working here ever since.
“I’m now going on 11 years working at Cara. I’ve been promoted twice, and as of two weeks ago, I’ve taken the position as Manager of Coaching & Retention. It’s super exciting to be in this role and I now understand how much work it takes. I’ve been really dedicated to make sure my team is successful, especially with our our new program model changes, because it aligns with a lot of my beliefs concerning the participants.
“I’ve been working really hard to make sure my team is successful, especially with our new program model, because it aligns with a lot of my beliefs concerning the participants.
“Almost 90% of the participants we serve are Black. We treat all of our participants the same, but specifically with the Black community, we recognize that we have definitely have it hard. I want to see success in the black community because we have so many barriers in society, and we need a way out. We need people on the other side who are going to support our Black community. Our participants are here for a reason, if it was really that easy, then they would’ve gone ahead and gotten it without our help. Many of our participants are really struggling because of incarceration, lack of housing, or they’re young parents. It’s hard when you have all those things against you, and no one wants to support you. So, my goal is to make sure that this community has someone here to support them. I’m glad I’m in an organization that allows that to happen.
“By giving me the opportunity for this job, the participants have someone in leadership they can completely relate to. As a former participant, I’m in a position to empathize with our job seekers. I can understand their struggle and how they handle certain situations. It can be difficult to understand why a participant may have an attitude or a sad nature, without understanding their background.
“My goal as a leader is to make sure that this community has someone here to support them. I’m glad I’m in an organization that allows that to happen.”
“As a leader, I want to honor our participants by giving them access and opportunities to the best jobs, coaching, and training. I’m a firm believer in practicing what you preach. If I’m giving a class and telling the participants they need to work super hard to get what they want, I have to take my own advice. When I applied for this position, I wanted to show that I mean when I say I want to work hard and that I’m willing to give my all. I also want to work with the other managers here to ensure the best for our participants, because, without them, there would be no Cara. I’ve been alongside the participants this whole time, and I’ve seen how hungry they are to be successful. As a leader, my first priority is to make sure that our participants come first and that we’re doing right by them.
“You have to take chances on people. Especially the underserved and minority communities. That’s one of the main reasons that I’m here, because of the people who said yes to me given everything that I had against me. Now that I’m at Cara, I want to be able to pull people up with me. I’ve honored this place, and I now have the opportunity to do the same for others.”
Your support this month can ensure more transformations in our community, and help us achieve our commitment to creating more access, equity, and opportunity for our job seekers. Please consider giving a gift today.