Job Corps graduation launches students into promising careers

job-corps-graduation.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

The graduation ceremony that took place at the Long Beach Job Corps Center gymnasium last Friday was living proof that regardless of what obstacles they face, young people can attain goals that put them firmly on the path to success.
Seventy-five students in the Center’s career technical training program received their diplomas amid the raucous cheers, whistles and applause of the greater student body-about 300 students.
The Job Corps, with centers throughout the United States, assists economically disadvantaged youth who are 16 to 24 years old and fall within federal low-income guidelines. They must also be either a U.S. citizen or a person who is here legally.
Many young people from low-income families cannot afford living expenses while attending college, and the Job Corps Center solves that problem for them.
Students enrolled in classes at the center live on the 17-acre campus, are given three meals per day, a clothing allowance and a small stipend. Basically, the center provides all their expenses, and provides them with no-cost medical and dental services.
The Center offers classes leading to a G.E.D. certificate. A charter high school offering high school diplomas is also on campus. For those who choose a different path, the center offers training for careers in automotive repair, business technology, culinary arts, glazing, health care, facilities maintenance, telecommunications, and cement masonry. The 75 graduates had successfully completed one of those programs.
“The students graduating today will go on to future employment related to their training, to the military or for further higher education,” said Sandy Annino, the Center’s business and community liaison.
Annino noted that some of the graduates had attended classes for several months and others had been there for one or two years.
The Center conducts separate high school graduation ceremonies twice a year.
Jesse Johnson, diversity and economic opportunity officer for the City of Long Beach, was the keynote speaker at last Friday’s ceremony.
He told the students that as a member of an impoverished family, he grew up in federally subsidized housing projects in Louisiana, Missouri and California.
“Many of you have had struggles in your young life as I too have had,” he said. “Each of us must find our own way in. Life is about trials and tribulations, but it is important that you keep your eye on the spiral.”
Johnson reminded the students that they had overcome many obstacles in order to earn their graduation certificates. He warned them, however, that they would continue to face many challenges in the future.
“I recall Ms. Chase, my high school teacher, saying that because I received a C instead of a B in her English class that I should not attend college,” he said. “She should have said that if I intend to pursue a college degree I should improve my writing skills.”
Johnson noted that in spite of that teacher’s attempt to discourage him, he went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and has since taught college business classes and conducted business workshops at conferences throughout the nation.
“I have no doubt that all of you who continue to apply yourselves will also have many successes in your respective fields of endeavor,” he said.
Johnson praised the students for their desire to succeed and their willingness to work hard to complete their training programs. He reminded them, however, that they could not have come this far without the help they received from their support group, which included classmates, parents, significant others, instructors and friends.
“When you have attained success in your career and are making a good living, don’t forget to give back,” Johnson said. “Donate some of your money and volunteer some of your time to help other people who are in need.”
Jason Gossett, one of the graduating students also briefly addressed the approximately 500 people in the gymnasium.
“Without the help of the teachers and staff of the Job Corps Center, I wouldn’t be anything,” he said. “I came here looking like a hoodlum, but look at me now.”
At that, the audience burst into about a minute of wild cheers and applause.
Long Beach Job Corps Director Michelle Alan capped off the ceremony with brief comments praising the graduates for their hard work. She also encouraged them to remember how hard work and perseverance paid off and to apply that to all future challenges they would face in life.
After the ceremony, she added, “I am very proud of our graduates today. They have worked so hard to achieve their goals. The skills they have learned will provide them with the lifelong ability to be self sufficient.”

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