Editor’s note: As we continue to post Job Corps stories in honor of its 50th anniversary, we want to hear from you. Submit your story through our Web form here − or share on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #JobCorps50.
Anne Marie Scheer drives 106 miles round trip daily to attend classes at the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center. It’s an extraordinary signal of her commitment to her future. At 25, she is juggling child-care responsibilities with the time she needs to complete her training for launch her career. Anne Marie has successfully completed the Heavy Equipment Operators and Construction Equipment Mechanics courses, and is now working to complete the truck driving course before transferring to advanced mechanics training.
As a longtime Job Corps center director who has counseled hundreds of students, I can say that Anne’s dedication to her career goals is amazing. She continues to work harder and harder to reach each new level of training.
It’s students like Anne Marie that inspire me and my fellow Job Corps center directors. They keep us focused on the transformational potential of this program, even when the deep structural injustices that we see every day weigh on us. The Muhlenberg campus has proudly served more than 16,000 students since it opened in 1973. Many of these students, like Anne Marie, are and have been exceptional — serving as role models, even though they often don’t appreciate their influence among their peers. They all graduate to build a bright and meaningful future and, along the way, help strengthen the communities where the live and work.
Anne Marie chose what we call a non-traditional trade, because she’s a woman in a field — heavy equipment — that has long been dominated by men. But the times are changing, and so has the curriculum at Muhlenberg. Today, career training areas include certified nursing assistant, pharmacy technology, clinical medical assistant, insurance billing and coding, heavy equipment operator, construction equipment mechanics, welding, and Class B commercial driver’s license. These are occupations that provide good middle-class jobs and the opportunity to build a financially secure life.
At the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center, we are planning a week-long observance of Job Corps’ 50th anniversary. It includes a 50th anniversary balloon release (with a success story enclosed in each balloon), a time capsule burial, a proclamation signing & reception, and, to close the week, a commencement graduation. For us, August is an exciting time, filled with happiness and hope for our students. This year, in particular, each staff member and student at the Muhlenberg campus is proud to be part of a national commemoration of this important historic milestone.
I was drawn to Job Corps because of its vision of a nation where young people are given the opportunity to make the very most of their hard work and their unique talents, no matter the circumstances of their childhoods and adolescence. Traditional educational and career preparation don’t work for every individual; for those who need tailored assistance, Job Corps serves as a lifeline, a second chance. It has been one of the most rewarding tenures in my career.
Millions of at-risk youth have been forever changed by Job Corps. As the workplace and society have become more complex and challenging, I argue that Job Corps is even more relevant to the nation’s future today than when Sargent Shriver launched this unique national program. As Job Corps honors its 50 years of growth and success, I’ll look to the past—but also to the future, with my students.
Eric Jones is the director of the Muhlenberg Career Development Center in Greenville, Kentucky.