So, you never graduated high school. Maybe you do have your high school diploma but never could get a decent job. Maybe you ran away from home or went to jail while you were in school. Well, you might as well just give up on yourself right now, right? Wrong! Job Corps is here to help, but you can only get out what you put into the Job Corps program.
I graduated high school in the top ten percent of my graduating class, but was homeless at the time. I got accepted to college but had no way of paying for it. Guardianship issues kept me from being eligible for financial aid and I had no one to turn to. Just when I was about to give up on myself I heard about the Job Corps program.
Job Corps is a free educational and vocational program designed to help teenagers and young adults gain some control over their futures. The Job Corps program is funded through the U.S. Department of labor and provides free housing, meals, medical care, and even some extra cash each month to buy some basic necessities.
So what do you need to apply to Job Corps? All you need is to be below a set income level, be a legal citizen of the U. S., and be between the ages of 16 and 24. There are Job Corps centers in every state so finding one near you isn’t difficult. There are waiting lists, though, so don’t expect to get in overnight.
While living in a Salvation Army shelter in Florida, I had to wait one week after being accepted into the Gainesville, Florida Job Corps program to get my greyhound ticket to their center. Yes, you heard me right, they pay for your transportation needs as well.
All of your basic living needs are met because if you succeed then the job corps centers get approved for more government funding. They are investing in you to become a part of America’s workforce and to contribute to society. So don’t think of the Job Corps program as a charity hand out but as a legitimate starting point in your career.
The first day of the Job Corps program is the hardest because you don’t have any idea what to expect. I will be easing your fears by giving you an idea of what your first day is like. This is valuable information, so pay attention!
You will arrive at your Job Corps center’s security booth, either alone or with some other new students, where you will be signed in for the first time. Depending on what time of day you arrive, you may encounter a crowd of suspicious looking students who will often approach you with lots of questions. Don’t show fear! The students who have been there for a long time are sizing you up because you are now part of their community. You will be sharing dorm rooms, recreation rooms, and classes, so they want to know if you are going to be a problem or not.
This sounds harsh, but it is the truth. The average student here has come from off the streets or out of jail and so don’t expect a very cheery welcoming committee. These guys have had it rough like you and are naturally a little untrusting towards newcomers to their home. If you aren’t a threat, then you will be accepted in no time. If you don’t shower or if you like to get into fights, then you will have problems (a lot of problems).
You will then be assigned a room and a locker in the dorms. I had to share a room with six girls at the Gainesville Job Corps center, but they have built new four man rooms since then. Some Job Corps centers have one community bathroom while others have a bathroom in each room. Once you’ve put all of your things into your locker you will be given a tour of the center.
This can be scary because you will usually be doing this tour when there are tons of students eyeballing you like fresh meat. Just remember that they are sniffing for trouble. You will usually be with a few other new students since orientation days are only one day a week. This will be your “OT” group (orientation training) and you will all bond quickly. If you arrive by yourself you won’t be for long because within a week you’ll be giving the next new person the evil eye. It’s all part of the Job Corps way of life.
Most Job Corps centers issue uniforms. They usually consist of khaki pants and polo shirts sporting your Job Corps center’s logo on the front. These are worn to your GED classes and to some off center functions. You will also get a uniform for whatever trade you choose. There are a variety of trades offered at each Job Corps center including carpentry, painting, masonry, heating and air conditioning, secretarial work, nursing, and law enforcement. Your uniform will be appropriate for your trade.
I chose law enforcement and already had my high school diploma, so I jumped right into my trade. I was still issued education uniforms because they are still necessary for other Job Corp program activities. My trade uniform was an actual police uniform and I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, Florida summers and polyester don’t mix, but the buildings were air conditioned nicely.
Anyway, back to the subject, once you have all of your uniforms in order, you will have to go to the nurses’ station and undergo a complete physical. You will feel violated! Some of the nursing program students actually did my blood work and I was really uncomfortable with the whole idea. If something funny showed up in my results, then these nursing students could go gossip to their friends if they wanted. One of my OT’s had AIDS and the whole center knew it in a day. I wonder how that happened.
Now I’m not saying every Job Corps center does that, but just be warned. After your medical exam you will be given a schedule and a general idea of what your days will be like. You will then be pretty much left on your own, but don’t worry! Like I said before, you will be bonding with your OT group and meeting other students. Just pay attention to what the veteran students have to say because they have the best information available. They were once new, too, and now they know the ins and outs of your particular Job Corps center.
You can go to the recreation hall and lounge around or play some pool. The “rec hall”, as my Job Corps center called it, may also offer video games, air hockey, movies, and contests. Every Job Corps center is different so you’ll have to explore to find out. If you’re not feeling particularly social, you can hang out in your dorm room for a nap after the long day.
Don’t expect to get a lot of alone time on center because there are students everywhere. The typical Job Corps center has anywhere from 150 to 400 students on campus so you do the math. You will be sharing a room and you will be under the center’s rules and supervision. You are getting a great opportunity for free so you have to take the good with the not so comfortable.
Pretty soon it’s curfew time. Yes, I said curfew. All students are required to be in their dorm at a specific time for roll call. You will have to sign in again and have a set amount of time before lights out. Sounds a little military or jailhouse, huh?
Well, the Job Corps program is government funded and they have to be sure that you are where you are supposed to be each day. They are held liable for you. You’ll get used to all of the rules and strict schedules in a couple of weeks. Just remember to ask questions if you get confused. Most of the students will answer them for you because they once had to ask the same ones not so long ago.
Now that your first day is over, be sure to get some sleep. Don’t mind the girl in the bed next to you snoring, you’ll get used to that as well. Just keep in mind that you are getting a once in a lifetime opportunity to get your life back on track. The Job Corps program is what you make of it, so make it the best! Now get some sleep, there’s roll call in the morning!