"It Changed My Life Forever": Our Job Corps Stories


Editor’s note: Since beginning our blog series on the 50th anniversary of Job Corps, we have asked readers and the public to submit their own stories about how Job Corps affected their lives here, or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #JobCorps50. Several Job Corps graduates have taken the time to tell us how their experience at Job Corps helped them overcome adversity and succeed. Here -- in their own words -- are a few of their stories.

CHRIS ORTEGA

“Before I joined Job Corps, I was the definition of an at-risk youth, living in Tampa, Florida. I didn't have a sense of direction or discipline, and I didn’t know what I was capable of as a young person. My life was characterized by my surroundings, which were very modest and bleak. When I let go of my fears and decided to join the Pine Knot, Kentucky, Job Corps, I had no clue exactly how drastically my life would change. I went from an environment with almost no support to a winning environment where people believed in me and saw potential in my future. After completing my high school education and the carpentry journeyman program at Job Corps, I joined the Navy and was sent overseas to Naples, Italy, where I served with confidence because of the focus, courage, and discipline I learned at Job Corps. After the military, I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland and a Master of Public Policy from Walden University. Today, I’m an IT recruiter and I live in Spring, Texas, with my wife and two wonderful kids. I’m fortunate that the program took a chance with me and gave me the opportunity to prove myself and become the man I am today.”

MARK WESLEY PRITCHARD

“When I graduated from high school in 2007, I lived with my parents for almost three years because I was not sure of my career path. Then, in June 2009, my dad told me about the Job Corps program. It took me several months of thinking about taking the leap before I enrolled at the Ouachita Job Corps Center in Royal, Arkansas. The program gave me a second chance at life. If it weren't for this experience, I would still be living with my parents or out on the streets. I completed the office administration vocational trade and graduated in September 2011. Today, I work as an archiving assistant at Arkansas Support Network, a non-profit organization, in Springdale, Arkansas, and I enjoy every minute of it. The pay is great and I get along with my co-workers very well. My experience has also inspired me to write a book, titled “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” I wrote it because I wanted to share my experiences both at home and at the Job Corps with others and try to give people helpful advice on how to become confident in themselves and in their capabilities. Once again, thank you so much to the Job Corps program. It has changed my life forever.”

RAMIRO MENDOZA

"When my mom lost her job in Mexico City back in 2001, I decided to take advantage of my American citizenship and started a journey to the U.S. alone with the hope of my own American dream to help my family and myself. With just a backpack full of dreams and $23 in my pocket, I moved back to Laredo, Texas, to enroll in the Job Corps program, which I began on July 23, 2002. The ESL program was a crucial stepping stone in my learning process, since I was not familiar with the language at the time, and it helped me to progress through the accounting certificate program. Soon after graduating in 2004, I got a job in a local bank, where I eventually worked my way to become a manager. After transitioning to a new job, I now work at what I consider to be one of the most ethical and strongest companies in the world. I manage over 35 employees, paying forward everything I learned at Job Corps - starting with leadership, compassion, effort, humility, ethics, and joy for life itself. I'm now very involved with Job Corps, giving speeches, visiting students, coaching, even hiring them when they graduate from certain vocations. I'm extremely grateful for what Job Corps did for me, and I wish the best to all students who have the opportunity to take advantage of such a great program."


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