Job Corps returns to Cortez after shutdown The program ‘saved my life,’ graduate says

Jennifer Summers, left, says the Job Corps program saved her life. Babette Kimble is an admission counselor at the newly re-opened office in the Cortez Plaza. Enlargephoto

Courtesy Photo

Jennifer Summers, left, says the Job Corps program saved her life. Babette Kimble is an admission counselor at the newly re-opened office in the Cortez Plaza.

After an eight-month shutdown, the Cortez Job Corps office has reopened and is accepting applications to the program.

Admissions counselor Babette Kimble explained that the government sequester was to blame for the local office’s shutdown, but funding has been re-established to keep it open part-time.

“There is a real need for this service in poorer areas, and without a local office, the risk is that some students will fall through the cracks and miss out on their education and job opportunities,” she said.

Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career and earn a high school diploma or GED. Job placement and vocational training is a key component of the service. The program accepts 16- to 24-year-olds who qualify as low income and do not have a pending court case.

Upon acceptance, students are placed in a center in the West that provides free room and board, meals, medical treatment, job training, GED opportunities, high-school level classes and trade certificates.

“They can stay up to two years, earn a diploma and work with vocational counselors on how to enter the working world,” Kimble said. “It is still high school, so kids can still get into trouble, but in the Jobs Corp program there are more one-on-one educational services to get kids on the right track.”

It has been a beacon of light for kids from broken homes, and it has a reputation for turning lives around. including for Jennifer Summers, of Farmington, N.M.

“I was abandoned at 15, left with no place to live or safe place to go. The Job Corps program literally saved my life,” Summers said in an interview.

Arriving at the Albuquerque, N.M., location, she took advantage of every service, from academics to life skills, and graduated with a GED in six months.

“I think the best part about it was knowing I had a safe place to sleep every night. That, and they gave me glasses,” Summer said. “I was stuck in a cycle of poverty, and Job Corps gave me the hand up I needed.”

Studying and passing the GED was one of her greatest achievements. Now she is an advocate for the program.

“The teachers at Job Corps gave me the confidence to know I could learn and become successful and independent. I owe my life to them,” she said.

Today, Summers, 29, is an assured young professional working as a TSA officer at the Cortez Airport. She is taking courses at Pueblo Community College part-time and is earning A’s.

It took her two years to land the TSA job, which has opened up a lot of career opportunities in law enforcement. Taking the exams and being persistent are skills she learned in Jobs Corp.

“They teach social skills, manners, how to talk to adults and be respectful, how to land and keep a job,” she recalled. “People don’t realize that kids without responsible adults in their lives miss out on a lot of key skills, like how to deal with money, renting an apartment and just getting along with people.”

Kimble feels the Job Corps program needs more exposure.

“I don’t think enough people know about it. And it is a good fit for a lot of younger people who may have dropped out for whatever reason and are now finding out that was not such a good choice.”

For more information about the Job Corp Program, call Babette Kimble, at (970) 565-9523. Job Corp is in the Cortez Plaza inside the employment office. More information is at www.jobcorps.com

jmimiaga@cortezjournal.com