There’s more to financial security than just finding a job, but a new program in Jacksonville is helping clients every step of the way!
Steps 2 Success (S2S) is Jacksonville’s first Financial Opportunity Center. FOCs–there are currently over 80 around the country–offer a holistic approach to financial well-being. In addition to employment services, FOCs provide career counseling, financial coaching, and access to income supports such as food stamps, utility assistance and affordable health insurance. Coaches help clients increase income, decrease expenses, save money and reduce debt. This integrated approach, coupled with long-term support from FOC staff, helps families to obtain their long-term financial goals.
LSS is part of a whole team of partners making S2S possible: LISC Jacksonville, Family Foundations, United Way of Northeast Florida, the New Town Success Zone and Edward Waters College. The FOC site is currently under construction at Edward Waters College, and S2S staff are meeting with clients in a temporary office until its completion, expected in August or September.
Under managing partner LSS’ umbrella of programs, S2S is now up and running with a staff of four under the direction of program manager Michelle Hughes, who has been a fixture on the nonprofit scene in Jacksonville for over 15 years.
How S2S Works
S2S offers two different coaching tracks, detailed below, and clients can enroll in either or both, depending on their goals. Clients first attend a group orientation session to learn about S2S services, and to decide if one or both tracks might benefit them.
The career coaching track includes:
- career counseling
- resume building
- job seeking assistance
- education assistance
The financial coaching track includes:
- wealth building
- budgeting assistance
- credit counseling and repair
- home ownership preparation
Because S2S is client-focused and driven by each client’s unique goals, all client services after the initial orientation are offered one-on-one with S2S staff. Services are available to anyone 18 or older who has the time and commitment.
Once a client enrolls for the career track, an S2S counselor will administer a skills assessment to the client, and then review the results with them, along with the client’s employment history and their employment goals. The goal of S2S is not to get the client just any job, but to launch a career. The counselor will help the client to build a resume, practice interviewing skills, and counsel them about topics like time management and appropriate workplace apparel. S2S works with a whole network of employers who have job openings, and the counselor helps the client to find and apply for suitable jobs.
Clients enroll for financial coaching with a variety of personal goals in mind: reducing student debt, saving for retirement, buying a home, repairing credit. It can be a lengthy process, and the counselor starts by reviewing the client’s credit report and last two bank statements with them. The client also begins tracking expenditures in a budget booklet so the counselor can get a better idea of spending habits. Then, the client and counselor work together to come up with a plan that will help the client to achieve their personal goals. The counselor is with the client every step of the way, helping them to identify obstacles (such as overspending on entertainment or a high student loan interest rate) and address them (creating a budget for entertainment or reaching out to the student loan company to request accommodations).
A Passion for Helping Others
Program manager Michelle Hughes has an extensive history in local nonprofits. She has worked with youth offenders, people entering or re-entering the workforce, and families in crisis. She has experience managing large grant-funded programs, and is a certified 7 Habits of Successful Families facilitator. She is a member of the Jacksonville Women’s Network, and a pastor at the Temple of Praise Church of God in Christ. For her, the work is all about helping others.
“I love helping people, seeing people be successful in whatever success looks like for them,” Hughes said. “I love pulling people up.”
She is also a firm believer in the power of partnerships. In addition to working closely with the other S2S partners listed above, she is hosting a monthly meeting of network partners that is open to any community- or faith-based organization engaged in similar work. The network meets the second Tuesday of the month.
To Learn More
S2S is currently enrolling new clients. For more information about how to get involved, or to learn more about the monthly meeting of network partners, please contact Hughes at (904)448-4995 for more information.