Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

February 11, 2010

Job Corps recognizes partnerships and successes

By Lailani Upham

PABLO — Student Nathan Herron may not have been out to serve as a role model at Kicking Horse Job Corps; however that is simply what he did, according to a letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau.

Herron has been noted as a success story at KHJC this year for his exceptional motivation at Job Corps according to Shelly Fyant, KHJC Career Training Coordinator.

Although Herron’s goals have a long way to go, Herron says, he is on his way.

Herron’s success is a collaboration of partnerships within the Mission and Flathead valley with Kicking Horse Job Corp.

Kicking Horse has been operated by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for more than 30 years and is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job Corps train 62,000 students each year at 122 centers across the country. Three Job Corps centers are in the state of Montana: Anaconda, Ronan and Darby.

Most students live on campus and typically complete their training in less than one year.

Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAP) is one source that serves as a host agency and has partnered with KHJC for over a decade.

CAP, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help people improve their lives by offering a number of community-based opportunities. Employment and training is one of 12 programs the agency offers to help people build success through the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) for eligible students that are non-tribal. Eligible federally recognized tribal students are serviced through the CSKT Department of Human Resources Department (DHRD) WIA program.

The goal of the youth WIA program is to keep young people in school or get them back in school and to emphasize job placement for those wanting to enter the workforce. The program serves eligible youth from 14 to 21 years old. Both CAP and DHRD departments administer funds to pay wages, and in some cases, to the students who are on a work-based learning position in the community, according to Lynda Kraft, CAP case manager.

There are currently 18 work-based learning partners at KHJC, according to Tom Patch, KHJC Vocational Director.

Work-based partners are committed to a student’s success by offering a position to a student to learn hands-on experience in their trade. Normally work-based partners pay the student’s wage but Herron’s case the funds were provided by the CAP agency’s WIA program to D and M Repair shop for Herron.

The students “job shadow” on location, according to Kraft, which means the student has the opportunity to follow his or her supervisor to gain knowledge, understanding and experience through one on one training.

At KHJC, students enroll to learn a trade, earn a high school diploma or GED and receive help finding employment or advanced training. When a student joins the program, they receive a monthly allowance and the longer the stay the allowance increases. KHJC also offers career counseling and transition support to their students for up to 12 months after they graduate from the program.

Trades currently offered are business technology, carpentry, culinary arts, dental assistant, diesel mechanics, facilities maintenance, forestry, heavy equipment operations, medical assistant and nursing assistant.

KHJC offers recognition for their students’ successes such as Herron’s case that was added with an extra praise from the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

On the national level Job Corps recognizes successful students such as one individual, Monique Williams, who now currently works with the Food Network. Job Corps described Williams’ success by using a pinch of passion, a sprinkle of creativity and a generous amount of determination which has turned her cooking aspirations into a recipe for success.

The culinary students at Kicking Horse have been noted with the same determination with an amazing recipe combination to rival any culinary connoisseur, according to several community raves.

According to the National Job Corps, Chef Williams’ journey began as a culinary arts student at Woodstock Job Corps Center in Maryland - the same school where she landed her first job. After several years of teaching and inspiring other young chefs, Williams became the first former Job Corps student to become an advanced culinary instructor. She was recognized during the Job Corps 45th Anniversary celebration, and later joined her Woodland Job Corps Center culinary students to cook with Chef Robert Irvine from the Food Network show. “The opportunity to make a life-changing difference in the lives of other young people is very special to me, and I will forever be grateful to Job Corps for giving me that,” said Williams.

Idaho Court of Appeals Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez was also featured as one of Job Corps successes. Gutierrez was born in Mexico and brought to America by his parents for a “new” opportunity. The “new” opportunity turned to one day Gutierrez waking up to finding himself sitting barefoot on a dirt floor of his grandmother’s “shack-like” home. “We may have been abjectly poor but my grandmother left me a most valuable gift: a love of learning,” he said. Eventually through several years of hardships a lady at the job service office took an interest in him and introduced him to Job Corps’ program. “I began to feel a sense of self-confidence. I discovered that I had potential. I passed all my exams and became the first in my family to earn a GED,” he said.

In 2007, Dr. Jess Ussrey a top supervisor with the Federal Aviation Administration was inducted in the Job Corps Hall of Fame.

Ussrey, a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma was a son of a World War II veteran and was moved from place to place. At 16 years old he found it hard to adjust to new surroundings and broke off to pursue his “big break” in the music industry that never came. His father urged him to go to Job Corps and he said that is where he discovered the structure and discipline he needed to succeed and became a certified welder. After Job Corps, Ussrey decided to further his education and enrolled at Northeastern State University receiving his Bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and math. He then earned his Master’s degree at the University of Central Oklahoma and his doctorate at Oklahoma University.

Ussrey said while at Job Corps he developed a love for community service and that has grown over the years. He serves as reading mentor in inner-city schools and currently serves as an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor with the Aeronautical Center’ Center’s Civil Rights Center.

Ussrey said his confidence in Job Corps is strong and urged his own daughter to enroll and she graduated with a health certification in 2003.

The dedicated staff and local partnerships with Kicking Horse Job Corps are determined to help students succeed and climb higher in their careers on the Flathead Reservation.

For local businesses or agencies interested in partnering with KHJC on a work-based learning project for a student in any of the trades offered above, please call Tom Patch at Kicking Horse Job Corps Center Career Transition Services, (406) 644-2217, ext. 6328.

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