FLINT, Michigan—Walking through the campus of Flint-Genesee Job Corps—past the dormitories, classrooms, rec center, and gazebos built by students, down the curving sidewalks and by the child care center—I see firsthand, for the first time, a place that has given hundreds of young people a second chance and given my family amazing opportunities.
Heading into the skilled trades building, I see a kid jogging up to the door. As I held the door open, he slid the hood of his sweatshirt off his head and a feeling of pride overcame me. My son, Dametreous, enrolled in Job Corps in the fall, the second of my children to pursue an education, training, and a better future here.
Dametreous, 19, said he is now half through his retail sales studies and he soon will be receiving his high school diploma. He went on to tell me that he plans to enroll in college after graduating from Job Corps and go on to become an accountant.
Few realize the bundle of opportunities on the other side of the gate at 2400 N. Saginaw St. At full capacity, Flint-Genesee Job Corps can host 305 students. The federally funded program welcomes students from all over Michigan and even beyond, especially since it is the only one in Michigan and one of only about 10 nationwide that also offers a childcare for students who are parents.
Flint-Genesee Job Corps has all the appearances of a miniature college campus. It is a place where students from age 18-24 are given a chance. Many of these students, for whatever reason, didn’t succeed on the traditional path. This is their safety net. This is their trade school, their life coach, and their support system to build a future.
My son is a prime example of what a young adult can accomplish when given the right tools, training, and support. Dametreous left high school after becoming a father.
“Every students’ needs are different,” Dametreous says. Here at Job Corps, students study and succeed at their own pace with a full support network—with everything provided for them: Uniforms, haircuts, health care, food and shelter. "The only way that you don't succeed and graduate here is if you didn't want to," Dametreous says.
It is also regimented. Students follow tight protocols—checking in and out from class to dorm, only leaving campus with permission, and undergoing drug testing. Like any workplace, there is also a zero tolerance policy for fighting, says Verona Terry, business community liaison for Job Corps in Flint.
On the weekend, students get passes to go home and visit with their families if the want to and are able to. Those without local family often stay on campus, but continue to have access to the recreational center with a gym, cardio room, theater, and game room. Job Corps also provides transportation to the movies and jobs as well as community outreach events.
The campus includes three residence halls: a male dorm, a female dorm, and a single-parent dorm. Daycare is provided for the children of students attending and living at Job Corps. In the academic building, students can (and must) obtain a high school diploma or GED before continuing their studies in a trade they select. These trades are specifically designed to ensure Job Corps graduates are immediately employable.
Students choose from seven trades—and wear the uniform of that trade during their studies: paint, bricklaying, carpentry, hotel and hospitality, office administration, retail, and security.
Job Corps has an 80 percent job placement rate for graduates, and they also receive a help getting started on their own. Called an exit check, the students get up to $1,200 to help them get their own place and get started in their new careers. Dametreous said he is glad that the support from Job Corps continues even after graduation, especially since he already has his sights on going to college.
“Job Corps has a program that allows students to continue to live on campus, even after they have started college, if the need is there,” Dametreous said, filled with obvious pride over his school.
My son Dametreous is doing great things at Job Corps, but I’ve already seen the support system in action. My daughter Carmen graduated two years ago, immediately landed a job, and is now enrolled at Mott Community College studying business management. And, she fielded phone calls from Job Corps counselors and staff for months after graduation.
I’ve been a Flint resident for 33 years. When I was in high school there were three Flint high schools. Next year there will be one. Through the years, a lot has changed. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that giving our children access to opportunities is very important to me. And one thing that i do know is that Job Corps is without question part of the solution for our children and for our community.