Alaska Job Corps is home to visiting wildlife on center, including moose, porcupine, eagles, beavers and a red fox. But never a domestic dog.
Until last June. That is when student Summer Horton (and her dog) enrolled at the Alaska Job Corps Center to begin the Human Services trade. Summer’s dog, Radar, is an eight year old, black standard poodle. He wears a little blue, jacket, when he is working. And he works all the time–because he is a Service Dog.
Radar is alert and intuitive. He watches his owner all the time. Sometimes he does more than watch. He sits beside her, under her desk, with his body just slightly touching her leg. He doesn’t need to watch with his eyes. He senses trouble, changes, moods and needs. As a Service Dog, Radar is well- trained to react and guide with seizures, orientation and navigation.
The Alaska Job Corps staff and students adore Radar. But he is only part of the team. His owner, Summer, is very well liked and respected. Summer is a talented, young woman whose goal is to be a speech language pathologist. And she is well on her way. In less than 120 days, she completed all of her course work and research papers for the Human Service trade.
Her instructor, Carol Huizar was amazed. “In my 25 years of working with students, Summer is perhaps the most motivated individual I have met. She has a disability that has truly strengthened her resolve.”
Summer’s personal goal is to contribute to others with disabilities. She is now in the Job Corps college program and has all “A’s” in her academic courses. Her writing skills are impressive.
Summer recently wrote an essay which explained her insecurity, upon starting college program. It reads: “I got a backpack yesterday. I received my new college textbooks and I put them inside, along with supplies and a divider. My backpack isn’t that full, but it’s overflowing with things you can’t see.
“Inside my backpack is the support of friends who are cheering me on. There’s the faith of Job Corps staff who keep telling me they’re sure I’ll accomplish great things. Tucked into the corner are social skills, practiced daily at Job Corps. Layered between the books are discipline and planning practices. Jammed into the side of the backpack is the maturity and flexibility to deal with hardships. Zippered safely into the most secure pocket, is my hope for the future. Lastly, packed underneath every else is my self-confidence, which defies the laws of nature, by making my backpack feel lighter……..the larger it grows.”
Chuck Legge, Safety Officer at Job Corps, is well-read. He has published editorial cartoons for 25 years and reads voraciously. Chuck says, “I’ve read one of Summer’s short stories; it was outstanding. I expect we will all see much more of her important writing and words in the future.”
Summer and Radar together will continue their Job Corps career. In the above picture, Summer and Radar participate in Center Support, which is in addition to their college career. Summer says, “I’ve worked really hard this year. Job Corps has offered me tremendous support and opportunity.”
Summer looks forward to lending her voice to others with disabilities. And if she gets nervous, Radar will be there, offering calm and alert security.
The Alaska Job Corps Center is operated by Chugach Alaska Corporation and administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Job Corps is the nation’s largest career technical training and education program for students ages 16 through 24.