Alaska Job Corps Center honors 46 graduates at graduation ceremony
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Alaska Job Corps Center honors 46 graduates at graduation ceremony

When Peng Sue Chang, the graduating class speaker and an Alaska Job Corps Center Security and Protective Services graduate, spoke about how he overcame the challenges he faced during his journey to—and through—Job Corps, the audience erupted into cheers. While he gave his speech, the students, staff and graduates of Alaska Job Corps were emotionally charged as they celebrated the many achievements of this spring’s graduating class. During the ceremony, as the audience listened to inspirational speeches and watched the graduates receive their diplomas, the energy in the room was profound.

On Friday, Feb. 23, 46 students graduated from the Alaska Job Corps Center. While some graduates were too busy working to come to the ceremony, 27 walked across the stage in front of an audience filled with their families and friends, as well as staff, students and Job Corps’ partners in the community.

Before the graduates walked across the stage, they were excited to talk about the jobs that they already held, and the careers that they hoped to launch. Although graduates were eager to celebrate their momentous achievement that day, several of the graduates were so enthusiastic about their jobs that they were already looking beyond the ceremony.

“I can’t wait to go back to work tomorrow,” said Don Weston, a Security and Protective Services graduate who is working for Signal 88 Security in Anchorage. “I love being on the job.”

Another graduate, Roxanne Sidebottom, who recently completed the Electrical trade, also said that she loves her job. Sidebottom works at Raven Electric, and she said that Alaska Job Corps provided the preparation she needed to find such a quality job.

“Alaska Job Corps opened doors for me that I never would have had before,” said Sidebottom. “I was lucky to have an instructor who was completely dedicated to my success.”

Other graduates are working across the state, from Shaktoolik Native Corporation to Hilcorp Alaska and Moose’s Tooth. With jobs as varied as a security guard at Securitas to a laborer for Haliquest Construction, graduates were thrilled to be in the workforce. Some of the graduates, including speaker Peng Sue Chang, were also excited to be continuing their training in advanced training programs at other Job Corps centers in the Lower 48.

During the ceremony, Alaska Job Corps Center Director Malyn Smith spoke about how the graduates’ achievements were the result of the many wise choices they made throughout their experience in the Job Corps program.

“When we first welcome new students to Alaska Job Corps, we often tell them that life’s greatest achievements are the outcome of the many choices we make each day,” said Smith. “These graduates before you have made those positive choices on a daily basis, and they are here because the sum of those choices resulted in this greatest of accomplishments: graduation.”

Kathy Shreiber, Vice President of Finance for Chugach Government Solutions and a former staff member at Alaska Job Corps, provided an inspirational message to the graduates. She spoke about the tremendous impact Alaska Job Corps has had upon the youth who have attended the program.

The keynote speaker was Bruce Bustamante, President of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, who offered life lessons learned from his own journey from working on a farm, to getting his bachelor’s degree in his forties, to becoming a leader in the Anchorage business community. Bustamante also talked about choices, and how it was the decisions he made that allowed him to become the leader he is today.

After the speeches, the graduates walked across the stage, some tearful, but all smiling. Their trade instructors presented the diplomas to their graduates, and then posed at the end of the stage for photos. After the graduates received their diplomas, they offered roses to the family, friends and staff who helped and supported them as they went through the Job Corps program.

While graduates offered the flowers to their supporters, one graduate was greeted by more than half a dozen new colleagues from Primrose Retirement Community of Wasilla. As a prep cook at Primrose, Lucky Keodoungdy is already a valued team member. “Way to go, Lucky!” and “Lucky, you did it!” decorated the signs that his co-workers held while they surrounded him for a group photo.

After the graduation ceremony, the audience met for a reception catered by Alaska Job Corps’ very own Culinary Arts students. As the visitors, graduates, staff and students enjoyed the food and mingled at the reception, the energy generated by the ceremony continued unabated for the rest of the day.

The Alaska Job Corps Center is a federally funded career training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and managed by Chugach Educational Services, Inc. The Center is committed to providing the highest quality programs for young adults by offering instructions in academics, trades and life skills through innovative methods that respond to the unique individual and group needs of today’s youth.

Story and photos by BCL Carin Meyer.

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