When Greg Howard, Alaska Job Corps Center’s current Water and Wastewater Treatment Instructor, first came to Job Corps in 2014, he was a student on a mission. He was determined to gain the knowledge and skills he needed to launch him into a career in water and wastewater treatment.
Before Greg came to Alaska Job Corps as a student, he struggled with a lack of structure in his everyday life. While working, he had suffered a serious brain injury that nearly killed him. After that, he was unable to work for a year, and also had to undergo years of cognitive and psychological rehabilitation in order to reteach his brain to function. During the years after his injury and before coming to Job Corps, he says he lacked the work ethic, direction and focus needed to succeed in life.
Coming to Alaska Job Corps changed all that. He quickly found that the structure of living on Center helped him as he continually worked to recover normal brain functioning. He had to learn to accept the limitations of his brain injury, and how to work around that to succeed at Job Corps. And succeed he did. He completed his program in Water and Wastewater Treatment very quickly and soon went on to work-based learning at the Curlew Job Corps Center in northeast Washington, where he was eventually hired as a wastewater treatment operator.
According to Greg, coming to Alaska Job Corps helped him “put the pieces of his life back together.” He gained confidence despite some of the limitations that resulted from his brain injury. He participated in extracurricular activities, like basketball and serving as a dorm hall leader.
One of Greg’s favorite aspects of attending Alaska Job Corps was the opportunity to interact with the diverse population and cultures across the Center. He found that learning to live and work every day with such a large and various group of students helped prepare him for success in the workforce. He also found that Alaska Job Corps really helped him build his work ethic. He enjoyed working with other students, and while he was here, he mentored and helped build up younger students.
Doug Abbas was Greg’s Water and Wastewater Treatment instructor. Greg says that Doug offered a wealth of knowledge and experience and was always telling “cool stories from the field.”
After Alaska Job Corps, when Greg went to work as a wastewater operator at the Curlew Job Corps Center, he found that he particularly liked interacting with the students as much as possible. He felt that after his years-long struggle with his brain injury, he was able to give back to the community by working with Job Corps youth. He says that this was gratifying and also helped build his confidence.
In March 2017, Greg received a phone call from Doug Abbas asking him if he would be interested in the Water and Wastewater Treatment Instructor position at Alaska Job Corps. Greg was surprised and excited to get that phone call. By the end of March, Greg became Alaska Job Corps’ new Water and Wastewater Treatment instructor.
As an instructor, Greg still loves interacting with our students as much as possible. He wants to know how he can help them in the best way possible and offer them a different challenge every day. He is committed to preparing them for the workforce by encouraging them to participate in as many work-based learning activities as possible. Greg wants to open his students’ minds about the boundless opportunities out there, and also express to them “you can do it” and show them that they are able to succeed.
Greg’s advice to our current Alaska Job Corps students is to focus on what you are here for—to achieve a goal. That goal is to get a good job and become independent and successful. He reminds students to stick to their mission and to not worry about everyone else. He wants students to know that they should always follow the rules and that the instructors and staff are here to help them.
Above all, and this is very important to Greg– with all that he has overcome and now achieved– that our students know that they will surprise themselves at how much they can accomplish if they put their minds to it.
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 photo by Carin Meyer, Alaska Job Corps Business Community Liaison.