GUTHRIE — The Guthrie Job Corps Center recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of a program that has helped more than 2 million people nationwide since its inception.
Job Corps, created in 1964 under the Economic Opportunity Act, is designed to give underprivileged youths the chance to make better lives for themselves through education and job training.
“We offer a lot for young people who are looking for an opportunity,” said Priscilla Mayberry, director of the Guthrie Job Corps Center. “When they come here, they’re able to get focused and get the support that’s needed to guide them to reach their potential.”
The Guthrie center opened in 1966. Still, the 50th anniversary is significant because without the national Job Corps, none of the work at the center in Guthrie would be possible.
Job Corps offers academic and career training. Students can pursue a GED or high school diploma under the tutelage of certified instructors, or take vocational training in any of 10 fields.
Job Corps is a residential program. Unless special circumstances warrant it, students live in the dorms for the duration of their studies.
The students all have faced barriers to obtaining a traditional education. Some are high school dropouts; others are homeless. Some are runaways or young parents with a child to support. All are low-income.
Working toward goals
Dorothy Garner, 17, is taking culinary arts training at the Job Corps Center. She helped make last week’s anniversary luncheon: baked tilapia with lemon butter, rice pilaf and lemon custard tarts.
Her eyes lighted up when she talked about her classes and how much her skills have improved in six months. But she also shows a serious side.
“Job Corps has really affected me,” Garner said. “Without it, there’s no telling where I’d be now, maybe out on the street somewhere. Now I plan on going into the military when I graduate, and be a chef on the ships for 20, 30 years before I retire and get another job.”
While Garner is well on her way to reaching her goals, some students are already there. Sean Dixon, 23, just graduated from the computer technology program. He has found a job repairing and maintaining computers.
“I was initially wanting to take security classes, but I saw the computer program and thought I would try it,” said Dixon, 23. “I entered Job Corps July of last year, so it’s been long, but it’s worth it.”
Nearly 90 percent of students go on to jobs, the military, college or advanced training programs after leaving the Job Corps Center.
Mayberry was once a student at the Guthrie Job Corps Center, where she took vocational health occupations training. Now, as director of the center, she takes pride in watching her students accomplish things that might have seemed impossible.
“It’s just a tremendous excitement to see how they embrace success, understanding that it does take hard work and dedication and motivation on their part,” said Mayberry. “We’re here to help them as they walk this journey of looking for this dream, this hope that we all have for success.”