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Job Corps Gets a Green Thumb

Published: August 03, 2010 | 11:11 AMARRA

Organic gardening, made possible with Job Corps' ARRA funds, provides valuable training and healthy food choices for Job Corps students. The individual projects allow students to put into practice the skills they learn in the classroom, and the bountiful crops from the gardens yield yet another opportunity for students to learn about healthy eating. From garden to kitchen, from rake to fork, here are some examples of organic gardening at work.

Hawaii-Maui Job Corps Center

The Hawaii-Maui Job Corps Center has an indigenous garden that students are maintaining. They have planted and harvested bananas, tapioca, sweet potatoes, taro, papayas, and other fruits and native Hawaiian vegetables for use in the center cafeteria.

Carville Job Corps Center

The Carville Job Corps Center garden includes two greenhouses and three planter boxes in which students cultivate vegetables and herbs. Several students and staff members formed the Carville Job Corps Garden Club, where students maintain the growing vegetables and learn about environmental responsibility and healthy eating.

Delaware Valley Job Corps Center

The Delaware Valley Job Corps Center used Earth Day Every Day ARRA funds to purchase, plant, and seed a community vegetable and herb garden on center.Carpentry and Material and Distribution Operations students built the garden, and Culinary Arts students maintain and harvest tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, collard greens, basil, dill, and other herbs and vegetables.The center has also invited the local community to enjoy the benefits of the garden by encouraging their neighbors to take home fresh crops produced by the garden.

New Orleans Job Corps Center

Although the New Orleans Job Corps Center’s organic garden, which it shares with its neighbors, is not completely ARRA-funded, the rain barrels the students use on center to collect water for the garden were purchased with ARRA funds. The center also uses ARRA-funded compost stations to collect grass clippings, food scraps, and other waste to help maintain the garden. Many students were involved in the development of this project, as Construction training students built the garden and Culinary Arts students planted the herbs and vegetables that are used in the center cafeteria. The center has invited local residents to take part in the garden by offering them the opportunity to pick fruits and vegetables for themselves, which has greatly increased the center’s local profile. The center has also partnered with a local elementary school to adopt a first-grade class that helps with the garden on a regular basis.

Brunswick Job Corps Center

The Brunswick Job Corps Center is growing tomatoes, squash, peppers, okra, and corn in their center garden, which was constructed by students who are studying landscaping. The center anticipates cost savings on food purchases, as the center plans to use the vegetables in the cafeteria and Culinary Arts program. The center also plans to contribute to the community by donating fresh vegetables from the garden to local food shelters.

Charleston Job Corps Center

The Charleston Job Corps Center in West Virginia has constructed an elevated organic garden for the center's Culinary Arts program. The 12-foot-by-12-foot garden bed, which features a variety of plants and promotes healthy eating habits, sits 18 inches above the ground. Garden elevation provides improved drainage and air exposure for plant roots, ultimately producing significantly more vegetation. Charleston's Culinary Arts students will begin cooking with the garden's vegetables and herbs next spring, helping reduce food costs on center.

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Alexis Alexander

Published: June 09, 2011 | 2:31 PM

Back in 2010, Alexis Alexander was in between jobs and trying to decide about her future when her cousin told her about what Hawaii Job Corps has to offer. The program sounded pretty good, so she thought she would check it out.

Hawaii Job Corps turned out to be even better than she expected. Alexis entered the program and became interested in Health Occupations. "I like the trade because it was very hands-on, and my instructor was very caring. She made sure we understood the material and pushed us to do our very best."

After completing her trade, "Job Corps gave me the opportunity to attend college. Without assistance from Job Corps, I would not have an Associate's degree."

Today, Alexis is working in a pharmacy and pursuing her dream of getting a Bachelor's degree in nursing.

"One thing I would tell anyone interested in Job Corps is if you are ready to put in the work to improve your life, Job Corps is the place for you."

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Troy Carter

Published: May 19, 2017 | 2:09 PM

Like many Job Corps graduates, Troy Carter began his life in a low-income neighborhood with nothing but a dream of music industry success and a drive to make it happen. After struggling to balance his education with a budding music career, Carter enrolled in the former Chesapeake Job Corps Center in Port Deposit, Maryland in 1990.

Carter quickly graduated from Job Corps with a GED. Saying the program "helped me experience independence for the first time,” Carter applied his new skills and perspective with renewed focus to his music industry ambitions.

Today he is the CEO of Coalition Media Group, a successful Beverly Hills, California, artist management and digital marketing company. He has worked closely with superstars like Sean "Diddy" Combs, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith, Eve, Nelly, and Lady Gaga.

Carter says America needs institutions like Job Corps because building leaders "starts in school" with students who "don’t stop dreaming and work hard.” He is living proof that, if just given the opportunity, tomorrow’s leader could be anyone, even an ambitious young dreamer from West Philadelphia.

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Monique Williams Jordan

Published: May 19, 2017 | 2:11 PM

With a pinch of passion, a sprinkle of creativity and a generous amount of determination, "Chef Moe," Monique Williams, has turned her culinary aspirations into a recipe for success.

Her journey began as a culinary arts student at Woodstock Job Corps Center in Maryland - the same school where she landed her first job. After several years of teaching and inspiring other young chefs, Williams became the first former Job Corps student to become an advanced instructor at Anne Arundel Community College’s hands-on culinary program.

Chef Moe was recognized during the 45th Anniversary of Job Corps celebration and later joined her Woodland Job Corps Center culinary students to cook with Chef Robert Irvine from the Food Network show Dinner: Impossible. "The opportunity to make a life-changing difference in the lives of other young people is very special to me, and I will forever be grateful to Job Corps for giving me that," said Williams.

Chef Moe’s work in the kitchen is truly inspired, but it’s her gift for inspiring others to achieve independence and success, no matter where they come from, that has the power to change the world. We can’t wait to see what she cooks up next.

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Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez

Published: May 19, 2017 | 2:12 PM

Job Corps' motto is "Success Lasts a Lifetime" and nowhere is this more evident than in the story of Idaho Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sergio Gutierrez, who received his GED and studied carpentry at the Wolf Creek Job Corps Center in the early 1970s.

Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Sergio crossed the border with his family and settled in Stockton, California. His father struggled to make ends meet for his six children on field workers’ wages and his mother suffered from crippling mental illness. To ease their burden, Sergio, then four years old, and one of his sisters moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to live with their loving grandmother in a leaky, hole-covered house that he remembers as barely habitable. Despite this poverty and hardship, Sergio was inspired by his grandmother’s wisdom and promised her that he would make something of himself.

When Gutierrez was 12, his beloved grandmother died, and he moved back to Stockton with his mother, his farm worker stepfather, and 12 other siblings. Scraping by in these conditions proved to be too much for the young man. He dropped out of high school after finishing 9th grade and fell in with a crowd of older boys that he admits were hoodlums.

Often homeless and frustrated with barely getting by on menial jobs, Sergio went to an employment office where he met a woman who recommended the Job Corps program to him. Resolving to fulfill his promise to his grandmother, he enrolled that day. This was when his new life began.

At 16, Sergio began attending the Wolf Creek Job Corps Center in Oregon. The structure, support, and serenity of the center "gave me an affirmation that I could do something with my life." Sergio quickly became a leader among the students and graduated with carpentry skills and a GED.

Transformed by his experiences at Wolf Creek, Sergio went on to earn both an undergraduate and a law degree, practiced law, and was appointed to the Idaho Court of Appeals in 2002.

Judge Gutierrez attributes his success to the Job Corps program. "I was not going down the right path, and the program literally saved my life," he said. “My life turned around when I enrolled in the Wolf Creek Job Corp Center in Glide, Oregon. Job Corps saved my life. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boise State University and a Juris Doctor from the University of California, Hastings Law School. But I am most proud of the GED that I attained at Wolf Creek because it represented a new start in my life.”

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