Jaime Cara radiates a passion for helping women find their voices, particularly homeless women, who are often marginalized and invisible. As coordinator of the Women’s Education Program (WEP) at Antioch University Seattle, Cara actively works to help women who have experience with homelessness share their stories.
“All too often women who are homeless or have experienced homelessness struggle to find their voice or have their stories heard,” Cara says. “And by working with this group over the past couple of years, I’ve seen the positive impact feeling seen and heard has on the women that come to the WEP.”
Cara, who is also a student in Antioch’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, believes she is doing the work she was called to do. Although she knew from the time she was a child that she wanted to become a therapist, she didn’t know how that would take form until she came to Antioch for her bachelor’s in Liberal Studies.
As a BA student, Cara became involved with the Women’s Education Program when she took it as a class. The program provides an opportunity for students and the women who attend to build community through a weekly breakfast, discussion, and writing group as well as time in the art studio together. Through this experience, Cara discovered her interest in homelessness advocacy, sparking a passion for the work that continues to drive her.
“I want to be an advocate and an instrument to help those who have experience with homelessness find their voice and share their experience in a way that brings awareness and destigmatizes what it means to be homeless,” Cara says. She acknowledges that she had preconceived notions about homelessness before she participated in the Women’s Education Program. The experience stripped her of those biases as she realized that they were based on false assumptions she had been socialized to believe.
“Everyone has a story,” Cara says. “Our culture has these narratives about what it means to be homeless or how someone becomes homeless. I’m passionate about educating people about the realities and complexities of homelessness.”
Cara credits her time as a student in the BA program with helping her cultivate her social justice lens and find her voice. “I never knew how to assert my beliefs or use my voice and that’s what Antioch gave me. I feel more grounded and confident in myself and empowered to help others, “Cara reflects.
Now, in her role as Women’s Education Program coordinator, Cara pays it forward by helping the women she works with to feel empowered in their own lives. For example, she shares mindfulness tools with them to assist them when they are in triggering situations. “The women get excited about these tools and knowledge,” Cara says. “These are some of the moments that reinforce for me that this is what I want to do.”
Being involved with the program has also given Cara an opportunity to build valuable skills that will benefit her as she moves forward in her counseling career.
“Being a part of the Women’s Education Program has provided me space to build my leadership skills and put into action ideas for the program in a very experiential way,” she says. “I have a strong interest in the nonprofit sector and I feel more prepared and qualified to work in the field because of my time with the Women’s Education Program.”