Kittrell Job Corps graduates prepared for a bold new step

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 08:57 PM

Jerrod Garland needed only five months to earn his high school diploma and his certification in culinary arts training at Kittrell Job Corps Center.

Before coming to Job Corps, he had plans to enter the military, but a recruitment officer advised him to gain more experience first.

On Friday, Garland and his classmates crossed the stage as graduates of Job Corps, which is a career preparation program for at-risk youth who are seeking a second chance to complete their education. There were 31 total winter 2014 graduates. Last summer, 59 graduated.

The program has served more than 3 million out-of-work young adults and underserved youth with 125 centers across the country.

The free educational program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor helps people ages 16 through 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training. The Job Corps program is authorized by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

Garland, like many of his peers, said living on campus during his time in the program was a difficult adjustment initially, but proved beneficial in the long run.

“It takes you out of your world and makes you focus entirely on what you’re here to do,” he said.

Kieanna Thomas, who also graduated Friday, said moving away from home to focus on her education was exactly what she needed.

“Being home, it was a struggle for me,” she said.

Thomas said she wasn’t having much success finding a job before she started the program in June. She received training in business and office administration, and hopes to work in a medical office, but she is still figuring out her plans post-Job Corps.

Damis Acosta, a nursing assistant graduate, said Job Corps gave her a second chance to improve her English.

“They helped me a lot with my English,” said Acosta, a native Spanish speaker. “My English was really bad before, like, I couldn’t even read some books.”

Now, she is heading to ECPI University in Raleigh to become a registered nurse.

In her speech at the ceremony, center director Ty Graham told the graduates they can control their future.

“You have authority over your life,” she said. “You took authority over your life when you decided to make a commitment to come to Job Corps. You decided to not give up and you decided to not give in.”

“Recognize your strengths, know what you are good at,” she said. “Recognize who or what you are and at the same time recognize what or who you are not. It is just as important to know what you are not as it is to know what you are.”

Graham said the only way to fail at Job Corps is by quitting.

“I tell students to make it happen, and when they ask why, I say ‘Because you have no choice,’” Graham said.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.