Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Cara Fuller

USA • Program Director, YouthBuild, Sasha Bruce Youthwork

MBA '05

Putting People to Work: Local, Sustainable Workforce Development

Cara Fuller, MBA '05, is helping Washington, DC youth build a future with both vocational training and education

Spring 2011

In Washington, D.C., at Sasha Bruce Youthwork (SBY), Cara Fuller, MBA '05, is using a workforce development model similar to JFYNetWorks' to put people to work. As program director of the regional YouthBuild program, Fuller works with clients who are high school dropouts with low-level reading and math skills, and many have additional challenges. Some have criminal records, are homeless or are living in shelters. Many aren't getting services of any kind and have never had a job before. Fuller says the most difficult part of serving this young population is finding them.

"We need to re-engage these kids. They've checked out or never formally entered the workforce. And they don't get unemployment benefits," she notes.

This is where Fuller and YouthBuild step in. Funded in part by a 2009 $10 million Department of Labor grant to parent organization YouthBuild USA, Fuller's program in D.C. trains youth in carpentry, HVAC and electrical systems, while also offering GED courses and a much-needed social support system. As long as students do their part, YouthBuild will pay them a stipend while they train. The formula seems to be working. Nearly all graduates of the program either continue in higher education or obtain employment.

"When folks are not employed, crime rates go up, the cost of food stamps goes up, drug use goes up, the number of small children without support goes up," says Fuller. "If you want to end the cycle of poverty, this is how you do it."

Prior to joining SBY, Fuller worked for the Baltimore City Health Department. She credits her Heller MBA, which she earned on a full scholarship, with launching her career.

"It has definitely paid off," Fuller says. "I love the young people we serve."

Fuller's favorite part of work is when students finally get that first job and first paycheck and then come back to visit her.

"It's the first paycheck ever for some," Fuller says. "And what they want is no different from what we all want -- to be successful, help their families and make a difference in the world."

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