Minneapolis nonprofit Avivo is using a $400,000 grant from Thrivent Financial to launch a two-year job-training program to help people who have experienced trauma.

The pilot program uses a “brain-science” education model called EMPath to help low-income Minnesotans overcome traumatic events and hurdles so they can learn and reach economic independence. The participants will be tracked with the help of online assessment tools developed by the University of Minnesota.

The pilot program, which launched this summer with six participants, has already shown progress and will be expanded from 30 participants. Fundraising will determine how many people it can serve, Avivo officials said.

Besides self-assessment and goal setting, participants in the first weeks of the program attend classes on housing, rebuilding credit, saving, higher education, financial aid and stress management. The classes are taught by staffers from Avivo, Thrivent, Wells Fargo and the Minnesota Department of Education.

Participants are then slotted into specific job training that lasts months and ends with industry-recognized certifications, licenses or degrees. Career study options include manufacturing, medical documents, office support, boiler or building maintenance and information technology training. Seven more students will be placed into job training slots starting next month, officials said Friday.

“We are pretty excited about this,” said Jacqueline Travis, Avivo’s mobility mentor and career navigator. “My job is to help people identify where they are and where they want to go,” Travis said. “Lots of people don’t have support. I help them find resources and make goals that are attainable.”

The pilot program looks to help any underemployed Minnesotan that has endured trauma such as domestic violence, torture, sex trafficking, depression, homelessness or chronic unemployment. Participants are referred to outside services for mental health counseling, while Avivo’s team focuses on life skills, job readiness and job training, Travis said.

The first group of trainees has shown measurable progress, she said.

“The [program’s] approach uses current scientific research on brain chemistry with regard to poverty and trauma and considers their effect on learning,” said Jim Verhoye, director of Avivo’s Institute of Career and Technical Education. “Working this comprehensive approach — with EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring and its Bridge to Self Sufficiency [program] — helps individuals make real progress out of poverty and achieve upward economic mobility.”

The ultimate goal is for participants in the pilot program to firmly establish paths that lead to “family-sustaining wages and well-being,” he said.

Avivo, previously named Resource, was formed in 1960 and provides chemical and mental health services, career education and employment services.

The agency has nine locations across the Twin Cities and assists about 15,000 Minnesotans each year.

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