By HOLLY KRAKE, MSEd
Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center joined 125 other Job Corps centers across the country to celebrate the second annual ‘National Job Corps Commencement Day’. Held on Friday, Aug. 24, the local ceremony congratulated 20 students who graduated the program this year with successful education and career training in everything from Forestry Conservation to Office Administration.
At the Oconaluftee JCCCC, these young adults aged 16-24 were offered a set of diverse academic opportunities and career pathways tailored to meet the needs of today’s business and industry. Nationally each year, thousands of youth are given a second chance to complete their education and advance into careers, higher education or the military. Program graduates then return to their local area as active contributors to the economic and social fabric of the community much like the original CCC work programs of the 1930’s.
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), wrote to Oconaluftee’s graduates “I don’t have to tell you that our country is facing hard economic times. This day showcases to the community, employers, and tax payers that the Job Corps program is one of the nation’s most effective career preparation programs… our focus must once again be on progress and job creation”.
Mark Shriver, the son of Job Corps founder Sargent Shriver, congratulated the 60,000 students who graduated from Job Corps across the country this year. “Job Corps is a great investment for the American people,” Shriver said in a special nationwide video address delivered in front of the United States Capitol. “Your commitment and dedication to get good-paying jobs make Job Corps the most successful federal training program serving your age group.”
Graduate, Ashley Mitchell, understands this first hand. “I know good jobs are out there- I just have to be willing to run after the opportunity with everything I’ve got. I volunteered hundreds of hours this year for that one extra good reference and bullet point on my resume”. Mitchell graduated from the Forestry Conservation and Wildland Firefighting program.
Shriver ended his video address by passing along advice from his father and Job Corps founder Sargent Shriver: “Just keep working hard. Something good will happen.”
Oconaluftee’s graduates are proof of that including 1997 Oconaluftee JCCCC graduate and keynote graduation speaker, Jennifer Charand who completed the Health Occupations program and is now a successful Senior Program Manager with Aetna Healthcare in Georgia.
The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina. It is accredited by the Council On Occupational Education and currently serves 104 students. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages over 200 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.
Holly is the liaison specialist and WBL manager with the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center.