TOPEKA – Unemployed for more than two years, Kansas City resident Juan Islas now has a job, thanks to an employment and life skills program called Made Men. Ask Islas for his resume, however, and he points around the room.
“I painted all these rooms, fixed the cracks and holes in the walls, repaired the steps” Islas said. The construction and carpentry laborer found himself unable to provide for his six children after years of work. “There just weren’t enough jobs and I was really struggling and needed help.”
Islas was one of seven people who received certificates of completion this morning, as the first graduating class of a new Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) program designed to help cash assistance clients become self-sufficient and build healthy families. The graduation ceremony was held at 2300 N. 8th St., Kansas City. Kan.
“They got me a job, but also they help when you’re ready to give up,” Islas said. He attended life skills and employment preparation classes. “They brought life back to me and they gave me skills I needed to get back to work.”
After two years of unemployment, he now has a job—the newest hire at a local church.
“I have a lot of painting and repair needs and I have a floor that needs to be rebuilt,” said Pastor Gary Jones, who will be Islas’ new employer at The ‘U’ Church, 9910 E. Bannister Rd. “We needed someone who doesn’t mind working. When people take the initiative to improve themselves, that demonstrates the character traits you look for to be part of your team.”
Jones said the life skills strategies that Made Men teaches add great value to the Kansas City community.
“Our goal is to do more than tell people to just get a job,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “We are here to provide the resources and skills to help people not just in their professional life but also in their personal life. Made Men is one of many programs we have that does that.”
Secretary Gilmore was one of eight speakers to address the graduates and their families during today’s event.
Made Men provides 120 hours of intensive classroom hours per cycle, consisting of 40 hours each of life skills, employment readiness and healthy relationships/fatherhood to help connect DCF cash assistance clients with sustainable employment. Made Men is led by Nelson Gabriel.
“It is our priority to ensure that each graduate is employed and a productive member of society,” Gabriel said.
Cash assistance is also known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF clients are required to participate in employment programs in order to receive assistance. In February 2015 (the most recent month of available data), 374 TANF clients reported new employment, with an average of 31 hours per week at $9.54 an hour. In fiscal year 2014, more than 6,000 TANF clients reported new employment.
Made Men will graduate additional classes in June and July. For more information about Made Men, visit www.made-men.org
or call 913-732-3976.
(Juan Islas, center, gray shirt, is honored at the Made Men Life Strategies Graduation. Pictured from left to right Made Men Board Members Charles Stephenson and Eric Thompson, DCF Deputy Secretary Jaime Rogers, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, Pastor Gary Jones, Islas, DCF Employment Services Director Jaryl Perkins, and Made Men President Nelson Gabriel.)