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CareerSource Polk Offers New Total Health Matters Program

May 29, 2024 News

The United Way of Central Florida and the Polk County Indigent Health Program have teamed up with CareerSource Polk to launch the T.O.T.A.L. H.E.A.L.T.H. MATTERS Initiative. This program offers residents an improvement in many aspects of their lives, leading to success in the workplace. The Total Health Matters program is funded by the Community Wellness Grant. This grant has utilizes funding from a half-cent sales tax voters approved many years ago. 

“The Total Health Matters Initiative is all encompassing, so it’s more than just career readiness,” said Christina Mazarredo, director of Outreach & Communications for CareerSource Polk. CareerSource Polk is a private, nonprofit administrator of workforce funds. “It also offers those who participate coaching, training, skills development, wealth outcomes, nutritional information and wellness goals. And it provides a mental health assessment and offers resources for those in need.” 

It doesn’t stop there. “We have resources to help with issues like getting food and helping people find ways to eat healthy. We partner with other community service agencies to help people overcome those barriers.” 

Shirley Balogh, United Way’s Director of Community Wellness, said: “The Career Source Total Health Matters program will extend the impact of much needed services to our youth and remove these critical barriers to self-sufficiency and health disparities. It is a win-win partnership. Ultimately, everyone in the program will reap long-term benefits and in turn, our entire community will benefit from a stronger workforce and healthier residents.” 

The Beginning

Two years ago, the Polk County Indigent Health Program asked United Way to partner with them to assist residents who are underserved, underinsured and in need of behavioral health and or prevention/intervention services.  

When it sent out requests for proposals, “CareerSource Polk applied to provide internships, work experience and training opportunities to 350-500 young men and women who have not had the opportunity to have their barriers to successful employment addressed,” Balogh said.  

Income is the most important social determinant of health, she stated. “With the Polk County poverty rate at 22.4%, the lack of income and high unemployment is exacerbating the health disparities. Young adults need support to succeed. A meaningful summer work experience leads to heightened self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. There are also opportunities for a mentor to assist them in exploring career opportunities.” 

CareerSource Polk uses the Community Wellness Grant to provide stipends to participants. Each participant that applies must be interviewed for eligibility before being selected, Mazarredo said. “We manage all participants in the program. The intent is to make sure they receive meaningful work experience. Whether it’s a key task related to a specific job function they’ve shown interest in or whether they want an overall look into the industry.” 

Employers work with CareerSource Polk to determine those responsibilities, she said, and they check in with the agency “so we can see the progress of each participant.” 

How the Program Works

The Total Health Matters Initiative Program starts with participants attending a one-week bootcamp before they begin their internship or worksite training. “During that time, they address any issues the participant may be facing and offer support through our partners. We also teach them soft skills to prepare them for the next nine weeks,” Mazarredo said. 

Participants as well as the community benefit from the program.  

“Whether they’re a jobseeker looking for training, support, and additional assistance when it comes to other aspects of life, or work sites or partner agencies offering resources to help participants thrive in Polk County, we all benefit,” she said. 

The program will start when all work sites are prepared to go. Participants will be placed in groups according to when they applied. 

Residents can apply through the 2024 Workforce Incentive Award Program. “Any Polk County resident who has been a customer of CareerSource Polk within the last three years has the opportunity to apply,” Mazarredo said. “Applicants must be facing any sort of barrier to gaining employment.”  

They must also demonstrate a need for assistance and the desire to become and remain self-sufficient. 

Summer Programs for Youth

There are two other programs CareerSource Polk offers for youth: 

  • High school students ages 16 to 19 who desire real-life work experience can attend the Summer Youth Leadership Training Program (SYLTP). Students work a maximum of 30 hours a week for up to 10 weeks, honing their leadership skills and getting hands-on experience. They receive a stipend to help cover expenses. 
  • Young adults ages 16 to 24 who do not attend school apply to become paid interns. They work up to 30 hours per week as part of the agency’s Summer Youth Internship Program. 
Hands-on Learning During Summer Youth Programs

The free program is “an eligibility-based initiative aimed at helping young adults ages 16 to 24 gain valuable skills for success in the workforce or college. This program offers a range of services and activities designed to connect participants with employment and training opportunities, empowering them to achieve their goals,” Mazarredo said.  

“Programs like these allow young adults to gain valuable work experience on the job,” she said. “There is so much value in being able to learn from the experts as opposed to reading it. These opportunities help them build soft skills as well as career readiness and preparation.”  

A New Haines City Office

CareerSource Polk opened its new offices inside the Oakland Neighborhood Center in Haines City in early May 2024. “This event marks a significant milestone in CareerSource Polk’s commitment to supporting young adults through its Polk Young Leaders program,” Mazarredo wrote in a press release. 

The application for the 2024 Workforce Incentive Award Program can be found at 

More information on the youth programs can be found at

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