On December 5, 2011, Ashley Smith, who is 18 and the single parent of a young son, enrolled in the KRA Employment & Training Program, Baltimore, MD, with what can only be described as an immature and uncooperative attitude. Ashley made it quite clear that she did not want to be in the program, and no one was going to tell her what to do. Celeste Simmons, KRA Operations Manager, reported, “Ashley was definitely a ‘mission’ for the KRA team. In the beginning, nothing we said or did could change her mind. Her position was ‘I’m here because I have to be here, not because I want to be here’.” Why did Ashley have to be there? She is a Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) Program recipient, and as a component of Maryland’s Family Investment Program, the TCA Program will only provide cash assistance to needy families with dependent children, as long as they are preparing for self-sufficiency…through work.
Nicole Odom, KRA Career Agent, commented, “When Ashley reported to her first volunteer work experience site, she actually cried because she was being told what to do. We assigned her to three more work sites, with the same result. One after the other, she was released from the site because she continued to cry when the site supervisor tried to tell her what to do.” As a result of this behavior, Ashley was terminated from the KRA program, and since she did not have a valid reason for not participating, was referred back to DSS where she wanted to “discuss her options.” Well, Ashley had no other options, and was promptly referred back to KRA.
On January 9, 2012, Ashley re-enrolled and was ready to participate, partially because she had been “sanctioned” by DSS, meaning she would lose TCA benefits if she did not cooperate, and partially because the experience was a personal wake-up call. It appears she really had been listening during her career guidance sessions, and realized that she did want a better life for herself and her son. On Ashley’s last work experience assignment, she was cooperative…did not cry at all…when her site supervisor put her to work. Simmons commented, “This was definitely a change for Ashley, and we all praised her for the improvement in her attitude.” Benjamin Zambali, KRA Career Agent; Yvette Clark, KRA Job Developer; and Simmons continued providing guidance and encouragement to Ashley to ensure that she would be ready for permanent employment when the time came.
Having successfully completed her work experience assignment, Ashley reported for the Professional Development phase of the program, and continued to be totally cooperative, participating in Mock Interviews, Resume Writing, GED Preparation, On-line Job Search, and Application Practice workshops. Before long, Ashley expressed that she believed she had received the tools she needed to begin her job search. Not long after, Ashley relayed to the KRA team that using the skills she had learned in the Application Practice class, she had applied for a job while out shopping over the weekend. She was very excited to put what she had learned into action, and proud of herself for submitting her application on her own. As days dragged on, Ashley anxiously waited for a response from the hiring manager. And, the KRA team waited with her until she got the word that she had been hired. Since March 1, 2012, Ashley has been working 25 hours a week as a Customer Service Associate for Royal Farms, a chain of convenience stores. Simmons concluded, “I checked out their website; it says that Royal Farms employees are friendly, honest, and service oriented. I believe these are the qualities they saw in Ashley, and KRA Baltimore is pleased to have been a part of her believing in herself and her ability to turn her life around.”