Alaska Job Corps celebrates graduation of 77 students
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Alaska Job Corps celebrates graduation of 77 students

The seats in the Alaska Job Corps Center gym were filled with students and family members from all over Alaska and even the world, many of them holding roses, carnations and other flowers, as they celebrated the graduation of 77 students on Friday, Aug. 25.

Thirty-four students from all trades actually walked the stage to receive their diplomas. Other graduates were unable to be at the ceremony because they were already away doing what they had trained to do: working hard in their chosen careers. Many of the Alaska Job Corps graduates are already working at places such as the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the City of Palmer, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Securitas.

Students, instructors, staff and family members alike beamed with pride as they celebrated the culmination of many months, or even years, of hard work by these students. As Center Director Malyn Smith said in her introductory speech, the graduates made choices every day to get to this point: they woke up each morning and went to class, whether it was raining, snowing, or even sunny, and even if they simply wanted to do something else. Instead, they worked diligently to achieve their goal to find a quality job and live successful, independent lives.

“At Alaska Job Corps, we change lives by challenging our youth to excel in their chosen path to lifetime success,” Smith added. “Here at Job Corps, we like to say we bring out the best in our students so that they can get the best out of life.”

And these graduates are already working to get the best out of life. For example, Todd Walker, from Wasilla, completed the Building Construction Technology trade and then moved on to complete the Advanced College Training program by receiving an associate’s degree in heating and refrigeration technology from Mat-Su College. After walking the stage at Alaska Job Corps’ graduation, Walker hopes to continue his college training in engineering.

Another graduate, Joey DeHart, from Ricohoc, LA, completed his program in Security and Protective Services. He says that the skills he learned at Alaska Job Corps have prepared him to enter training to become a Village Public Safety Officer in Tanacross.

“The training and experience I received at Alaska Job Corps has provided me with what I need to advance my security career,” said DeHart.

Jadyn Nafpliotis, of Fairbanks, finished her Certified Nursing Assistant program and is already working at the Denali Center at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital as a CNA. She said she has great benefits and loves her job.

“Alaska Job Corps definitely put my mind in the right direction and set me on the career path I needed to be where I am today,” she said.

At the ceremony, Governor Bill Walker also commended the Alaska Job Corps graduates through video-recorded remarks.

“Alaska needs you now more than ever. You are the building blocks of the future success of our state,” he said. Like Smith, he also recognized the hard work that Alaska Job Corps graduates put into their training in order to achieve their goals and mentioned the great value that the cultural variety and diversity of Alaska Job Corps students brings to our state’s workforce.

The keynote speech was given by Dr. Talis Colberg, Campus Director of the Mat-Su College. Colberg called his talk “The French Fry Speech” because he told three stories about different challenges in his life that all involved French fries. These stories all centered on how he overcame those challenges using different methods. One of the main points of his speech is that you have to know, and ask for, what you want in life.

Other speakers included the former Student Government Association President Travis Chunak, who graduated from two trades: Security and Protective Services and Certified Nursing Assistant. He was recognized at the ceremony for excellence in leadership. Another speech was given by Alaska Job Corps Finance and Administration Director Ron Young, who talked about the importance of having a positive attitude and the value of pursuing opportunities as they become available.

“These graduates have overcome the challenges of being in a new place, some of them coming hundreds of miles from home, and they have used their tremendous strength and courage to ‘stick it out’ when the challenges seemed too great. They used their intelligence and drive to pull their books out and study when they could have chosen to do something else,” said Smith. “We are so proud of each and every one of these graduates.”

Story and photos by Carin Meyer, Business and Community Liaison.

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