DOL gives at-risk youths second chance to succeed

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As I See It

BY ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

Perhaps only a few know that the government, through the Department of Labor (DOL), is giving marginalized youths second chance to be successful in their educational pursuit and be a contributing member of society!

The second-chance program is the Job Corps program for at-risk students ages 16 to 24, giving them a chance to earn their high school diploma, acquire a high school equivalency certificate (HSE), and train for as many industry-related-trades to prepare them in the job market.

For the month of August, the 117 Job Corps Centers all over the country held simultaneously their traditional graduation ceremonies on different dates of the month. Graduates from high school, high school equivalency, and the various trades were recognized for their efforts.
For San Jose Job Corps Center (SJJC), it was held last week with a total of 96 graduates held at the Center’s Quad area in its 11-acre campus in San Jose. Silicon Valley Career Technical Education (SVCTE) Assistant Principal Peter Vrabel, keynote speaker, encouraged the graduates to further continue with their momentum, so they can fully reap the fruits of their labor.

Of the 96 graduates, 13 graduated from their High School Equivalency (HSE); 11 from SIATech; 1 from Penn Foster; and 71 from career technical trades.

It was the student speakers who amplified the true measure of the program as a life-changer when Mariana Christina Luttenberger, a homeless sleeping in her car before joining Job Corps, said the program transformed her life and gave her a chance to be successful.

She graduated from the HSE program and earned a trade (CTT).

Another student speaker Eileen Jimenez Cornejo, said Job Corps gave her a new life having completed high school, HSE, and a trade. She said she struggled during her stay in Job Corps but eventually turned it around and completed three courses that will prepare her for a better life.

These are life-changing testimonies coming from marginalized youths who were given by Job Corps a chance to succeed and become worthy members of the community. They will be ready to be dispatched to the job market, so they can apply their hard-earned skills and social values they earned from Job Corps during the duration of their stay on center.

They served as examples for the remaining 264 students on center who witnessed their transformation while in Job Corps from a non-productive, not focused students to a very successful students preparing them to becoming successful in life.

Personally, I was touched by their honest-to-goodness testimonies and having seen their struggles and hard work, I told myself Job Corps is really a life-changing institution that helps at-risk students better their chances in life.

The career technical trades being offered by the center (in-campus and off campus) are Culinary Arts; Auto Body Repairs and Refinishing; Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC); Security and Protective Services; Shipping and Handling; Material Handling; Medical Administrative Assistant; Cyber Security; Customer Service; Office Administration; Automotive Careers; Carpentry; Dental Assisting; Electrical Maintenance; Medical Assisting; Welding; and Facilities and Maintenance. With trade partner TCU, the center also offers a program on Transportation and Communication Union.

In her opening remarks, Center Director Leslie Gilroy congratulated the graduates and their parents for a job well done. She recognized the hard work of the students who now belong to about 104 million at-risk students Job Corps all over the country has already served. She later presented to the graduates their diplomas as GED Instructor Eric Peterson read the names of the graduates ascending the stage to receive them. SIATech’s Executive Director of Community Development and Career Pathways Laurie Pianka officiated the turning of the tassels of the graduating students making them full-pledged graduates.

Career Development Director Philip George served as the emcee while Academic Manager Alice Rodriguez delivered the closing remarks. High school graduate Geanna Villegas sang the Star Spangled Banner while CTT graduate Giselle Aguirre- Perez led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Refreshments were served at the center’s gymnasium after the graduation ceremonies courtesy of the center’s culinary arts students under Culinary Arts Instructor Michael Lin.

Job Corps is a tuition-free training and education program under the DOL that connects students with the skills and education opportunities they need to establish their careers in the real world.

Considering that Job Corps Center’s course offerings are attuned to the current job market, the second chance program of the federal government is working! In fact, the center’s emphasis is preparing them for their future… and that graduation is just the beginning of a better life. So students were made aware as early as their stay in Job Corps that upon their graduation, they just have to continue the job search for a better life. Job Corps helped the students to prepare for their career with basic education and knowledge that goes beyond the classroom and their training.

They are ready for the job market!

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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