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Omaha area nonprofit seeks to connect job applicants with checkered pasts to better employment opportunities

The first ever Level Up Career Fair was held Saturday at the Gene Leahy Mall
Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 04, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Local nonprofit Freedomtainment held its first-ever Level Up Career Fair at the Gene Leahy Mall on Saturday with the hope of giving applicants with a checkered past a new opportunity.

Host Raquel Henderson said she works regularly to connect more people, especially those of color to good jobs.

"I do a lot of job placement in our community and help bridge the gap between opportunity and our people," Henderson said.

Mary Tohouegnon came to the fair in search of a career in nursing. She also needed help clearing her record. Henderson's work to help Tohougue and others has earned her the nickname, "the job whisperer".

"She has helped me so much from doing my expungement," said Tohouegnon. "And helping me get back into the nursing field of things."

Henderson wanted to start this job fair to give those who are trying to move on from a bad past an equal shot at a good job.

"The goal is to get individuals into sustainable and gainful employment with the hopes of reducing and addressing the systematic issues that are in our community right now," Henderson said.

Merck was one of the many employers at the career fair, manager Ryan Bourek said they were happy to meet with potential applicants as they’re trying to rebound from the pandemic.

"With all the COVID restrictions we hadn’t kept up with our hiring," Bourek said. "We’re out here in full force today trying to recruit people for the open positions."

The fair put Tohouegnon on the fast track to finding a new job, she said she left with multiple job offers.

Other applicants were just grateful for the possibility of a second chance toward success.

"Everybody should have the opportunity to move forward after a bad decision or previous trouble in their past," Molly Gibson said. "It’s nice to see them coming together for the community in that way."

Nine employers took part in the fair, Henderson hopes to see the fair grow in the coming years.

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