Yearly Archives: 2016


Person in the Mirror

September is Self-Improvement Month, which means it’s a very special month for us at Connections to Success! We thrive on the self-improvement of others, that’s what our foundation is build upon. Each day we make it our mission to help our neighbors in the community work towards a better vision of themselves. We don’t just focus on professional improvement, we help with numerous outlets such as personal, mental, and health improvements.

Here are a few habits to build a better you!

  • Health & Fitness: Try to do cardio at least 3-5 times a week and a few body weight exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • Getting Organized: Pick on thing in your life every day that you would like to get in order and make it a priority to organize
  • Spend more time with Family: Pick one of two family activities each weekend and commit to it (going to the park, playing board games, having a movie night)
  • Learning new Things: Create a chalkboard in your home or workplace and start to a “Word of the Day” or maybe a riddle or a fun fact

Did you see anything that interests you? Remember, Self-Improvement can be applied to any aspect of your life!


Expanding Impact Takes Collaboration

By: Stephanie Regagnon, Founder, Ava’s Grace

Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation was born six years ago to give hope to children whose lives have been impacted by the incarceration of one of their parents. It rose up from deep pain my family endured to provide a path towards a brighter future for others. This May, we were thrilled and proud to celebrate the graduation of our first two scholars – McKenzie Lockett from Mizzou, my own alma mater, and Cari Hill from William Jewell College. These young women embody the hope Ava’s Grace offers many more young people through the gift of education.

After six years of hard work, we realized that by collaborating with others, we could have much greater impact. This spring, we officially united with Connections to Success, coming together to expand its holistic program providing hope, resources and a plan in making an impact on the next generation. With aligned missions and shared values, Connections to Success and Ava’s Grace are well-positioned to collaborate, bringing additional education resources to families through the Connections to Success evidence-based model for improving children’s futures.

The decision to bring Ava’s Grace into the Connections to Success family of programs made sense, both from an organizational standpoint and as way to provide a wider array of services with more depth for a segment of our community at disproportionate risk for incarceration. Children with parents who have been incarcerated are at far greater risk of becoming incarcerated in their lifetimes than other children. Our combined resources will allow us to serve the entire family – from young people to parents – through a holistic model. By combining our strengths, our organizations can break this vicious cycle and make a bigger impact.

Connections to Success has been serving people transitioning from generational poverty, incarceration, domestic violence, and other challenging situations for more than 15 years through its proven Pathways to Success model. By helping participants complete a life plan through personal goal setting, this model reinforces education as a key component to preventing the next generation from repeating the cycle of incarceration.

Uniting Ava’s Grace with Connections to Success will offer participants more resources, increasing each individual’s potential for success. Young people who are the focus of Ava’s Grace support today now will have access to expanded mentoring and other resources through Connections to Success, such as professional clothing offered by Dress for Success. This can prepare them for life beyond higher education and create momentum for a fruitful and fulfilling future.

Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation is filled with gratitude to all those who have contributed to our growth to this point; with humility at the opportunity to work with and serve with such an amazing organization; and with hope as we look forward to improving many futures as a united organization.

Overcome Your Employment Barriers

Whether it’s lack of job history, a criminal record, a lapse in employment or any host of other potential barriers to employment, you can overcome. Make yourself an attractive candidate by following these helpful tips from Connections to Success Training Director Vivial Lopez:

  • Create a 30-second commercial for yourself. Be prepared to enumerate your skills and how you developed them. Whether through jobs, volunteer work or helping a family member, your skills count.
  • Identify your best features and tailor your presentation to sync them up with what the particular employer is looking for.
  • Do your research. Know what positions and industries are a good fit for you.
  • Be realistic. Be willing to start in an entry-level position and work yourself up from there.

Specific Tips for Specific Situations

When You Have No Job History

  • Develop skills and create a work history through volunteering.
  • Identify where you’d like to work and what title you’d like to have. Then focus your volunteer efforts on developing the skills that jive with your job ideal.
  • Practice, practice, practice on selling yourself with confidence.

When You Have a Criminal Record

  • Own it. Be upfront about it. Take responsibility for it. State when and what, but not the gory details of your crime. Look the interviewer right in the eye and then move on.
  • Focus on who you are now, not who you were then.
  • If you developed job skills while incarcerated be sure to phrase them correctly. Say, “while working for the DOC I learned …” instead of “while I was in prison I learned.”
  • Share what you have learned from your experiences and what you  have done since released, for example:
    • Completed job training
    • Gotten a GED
    • Reconnected with family and the community
    • Practice how to handle the felony question. Never minimize, justify or divert.

When You Have a Job Lapse

  • Communicate how you have been productive since being laid off. Share that you:
    • Have a part-time job
    • Volunteer
    • Work on skill development through classroom and/or online courses
  • Share what you’ve learned while under or unemployed and how it is a perfect fit for the job you’re applying for.

Confidence Goes a Long Way

Remember that, whatever your situation, you need to present yourself with confidence during an interview. Every employer is looking for a can-do attitude, along with a particular skill set. Demonstrate that through:

  •  Good posture. Stand and sit up straight.
  • Eye contact. Look the interviewer right in the eye.
  • Energetic body language. Exude your passion for success.
  • Appropriate dress. Let Dress for Success help you.

The Job is Yours for the Taking

Now that you know what to do, go out and get it.  


Women in Non-Traditional Jobs

Employment opportunities abound for women in the non-traditional fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The STEM career track is the fastest-growing track for women. There are so few women in these jobs that, when a woman walks in the door for an interview, she has a tremendous advantage. As in any interview, a women applying for work in the STEM fields must know and confidently speak about specifically what she can bring to the table and what she’s worth salary wise. Today’s hottest STEM jobs are in all types of engineering, computer programming and computer coding. Engineering is particularly hot because many of the baby boomer engineers are readying for retirement and that’s creating lots of spots for replacements.

Needless to say, women must have the right expertise and education to be able to excel in STEM jobs. In order to develop these talents young women are encouraged to do their homework when deciding which universities to attend and which courses of study to pursue. Career changers and stay at home moms who want to get into STEM positions should check out and Coder Girl, a network for support and encouragement from like-minded women. Coder Girl meets every Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m. at 4811 Delmar Blvd.

Careers in science, technology, engineering and match can be extremely lucrative. They can also help to address and solve many of the problems facing the world. And that, of course, is of great importance to many women.



Pay Disparities for Women

While some things are getting better for women in the workforce, women, on average, are earning 26 cents less than men on the dollar. Women need to tackle this problem head-on and take responsibility for asking for, and getting, higher salaries.

Why is this happening, you ask? Women are socialized to think that things are fair. And so, when a hiring manager makes an initial salary offer, they tend to take it, no questions asked. What women fail to realize is that an initial offer is typically less, sometimes even far less, than what the hiring manager is willing to pay.

  • Women often have no or poor negotiation skills. They need to develop these skills in order to get what they’re actually worth. In order to develop negotiation skills women should start by developing confidence in their skills. They need to understand exactly what they have to offer. Making a list of the skills they are good at is a great way to start. Then, they need to understand exactly what their skills are worth. Using salary calculators found online is a great way to do this (a Google search of “salary calculators” will reveal numerous resources).
  •  Next, women should let the prospective employer state the first salary offer. Then, they should come back with a counter-offer, keeping their research in mind and defining specifically why they’re worth the salary they’re asking for. Once women are comfortable with the salary offer they should ask for it in writing.
  •  If a woman does accept a low-ball salary she should ask for a performance and salary review in six months to bring her salary up to where it should be.

Yes it’s true that society has some changes to make regarding pay disparities for women. But it’s equally true that women need to change in order to take responsibility for their own salary negotiations.  Many of the women we at Connections to Success serve invest a lot of their time in preparation for job interviews. They also need to prepare for salary negotiation. We can help them and you be prepared to ask for the wage you deserve. By doing so, you will join the movement for gender pay equality!