Dara Overturf goes from “in front of the desk” to behind it, thanks to Supported Work Experience program
Dara Overturf greets everyone who walks into the CITC Tribal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Office in the Mat-Su Valley with a beaming grin. Thanks to CITC’s Supported Work Experience (SWE) program, she’s got a lot to smile about.
“I never thought I could get hired somewhere,” explained Dara, who works as the Valley office’s receptionist. “I worked in a boutique when I was sixteen, but I’ve never worked anywhere else. This is my first office job, so I’m learning all about office equipment, answering phones, using Microsoft Office.”
That’s the point of SWE, which places eligible CITC participants into positions designed to equip them for future employment. Often, those positions are with CITC partner organizations. Dara is the CITC Valley Office’s first SWE employee. (Knik Tribal Council, housed in the same building as the CITC Tribal TANF Office, also hired its first SWE employee this year.)
“We just fell in love with Dara,” shared Denise Osborne, CITC’s Mat-Su Valley TANF Coordinator.
She pointed out that many TANF participants come to SWE with limited work experience. “We know that there will be barriers for many of our participants. SWE takes that into account and gives them time in the work world to gain experience. They say if you want a job, you should have a job — that’s what happens with SWE.”
Dara first came to CITC with no resources. After fleeing an abusive relationship in the lower forty-eight, she returned to Alaska with her two sons, in need of support. At the time, she lived in Eagle River, so she soon found herself at the Anchorage CITC office, applying for food stamps.
“It was awesome,” Dara recalled of meeting Case Manager BreeAnn Davis and Specialist LoAnne Mark, who connected her to TANF, to the K.I.D.S. program (which provided gift cards for her children at Christmas), and to childcare assistance. “I had no idea what I was going to do with my kids if I found a job, so I really appreciate CITC providing help with childcare.”
As a TANF recipient, she learned she was eligible to participate in SWE. Before long, she found herself applying for the receptionist position, after relocating to the Valley.
Today, Dara said, her sons have adjusted to her work schedule, and they’re enjoying summer in Alaska. Meanwhile, Dara is thriving in her new position — and using her own experience to better understand the individuals she greets from behind her desk.
“You can see and understand from both positions, what it’s like being in front of the desk and behind the desk,” Dara said. “That’s pretty cool — I know what that person is going through, and I’m able to connect in that way, having been there before myself.”