I had believed that success was a fallacy. That it was something society tells you to strive for in order to keep you compliant and in a state of perpetual debt. I wasn’t the most patriotic or outgoing student when I was younger. I didn’t have the common desire for money, cars, clothing or accessories of any sort. I never really concerned myself with the calamities the media had to offer or the persistent bantering of my school teachers. Nothing really caught my attention, nothing really motivated me. I never had felt any form of camaraderie, that typical sense of belonging to something greater than one’s self. The life I led before coming to Job Corps was one of independence and simplicity. At the time, all I truly wanted was to be free and on my own.
By the time I hit the age of 15, I was head strong and blinded by youth. I had determined that I had out grown the small city of Rochester, MN and it was time for me to leave. So I escaped the comforts of my mother’s home and embarked on a journey that would inevitably lead me to Job Corps and the life I never wanted to live, called success. With my pack on my back, I trained hopped, hitch hiked, and road tripped my way out of Minnesota and into the sunny west coast. For the longest time my only home were the parks where I would lay my head or the pacific western freight cars I would hide in. I rode the rails west through New Mexico, through the deserts of the United States, and up north through the rich coast lines into the mighty red wood forests. At the time, my food came from various dumpsters and welcoming churches. My friendships were from books and other wayward travelers and my only guarantee was the promise of tomorrow.
For 7 years I chased the wind, drunk off my freedom and high off my travels. I was in Tempe AZ when I decided to slow down. Moving in with strangers I had only known for a matter of days, I found myself working at a small restaurant earning $3.50 an hour with little promise of tips. It wasn’t until my roommate went to an interview that I discovered Job Corps. At first, I was hesitant and a bit incredulous, but after some research and a visit to the Phoenix center, I did reconsider. Suddenly the prospect of a free education was enticing and the idea of free room and board was nothing short of divine intervention.
Briefly after my visit to the Phoenix center, I decided it was time for a change. So I packed my bag and headed back north where I would visit my mother and brothers once again. While I was in my snowy state of Minnesota, the idea of Job Corps still rattled about in my mind. It felt as if God had placed Job Corps before me to challenge my faith and my strength, I couldn’t refuse. Later that week, I visited the Hubert Humphrey Job Corps Center. During my visit I also applied for an interview for the very next day. The interview was informative and filled with tales of success and triumph. The center was quite rustic and ethnically rich, a large difference from what I remembered of the Phoenix center. Within the following week, I had received my acceptance into the program and the choice to attend any center within the region. I chose Flint Genesee Job Corps Center because of my interest in martial arts and a drive to defend the ones I loved, so I naturally thought I would excel in the Security trade. CMA was picked, not because of a passion to help others or a strong longing to be in the medical field, but for the sake of knowledge itself.
Little did I know it wouldn’t be the trades that would keep me here, but the trainees. Job Corps impacts my life by allowing me to influence my center and my peers. Ninety percent of the trainees attending Flint Genesee Job Corps are black or African American. Many of those trainees come from low income, urban neighborhoods; streets filed with violence, intolerance and years of social depravation.
The transition to the center was easy for me to make. Considering the years I spent on the road, to me it was just another move. Unfortunately though to the majority of the trainees coming to the center, the mentalities of their streets and neighborhoods follow along with them. Gang relations run wild, a sea of red and blue bandanas; trainees no older the 16 with tattoos from chest to fingertips. Rap music fills the air preaching hate and black on black crime, reinforcing Jim Crow’s psychological warfare.
As a member of the student government association and the CPP wing leader, I make the center culture one of my main points of focus. Through the leadership classes my center has offered me, I’ve been able to reach out to trainees and be a voice of reason in a world of static. Within the past 6 months, we have been noticing our center’s “norm” slowly changing. Trainees are taking an interest in building better relations with the community outside our closed campus. Bible studies are held in the wings at all hours of the night. We’ve even constructed a gentlemen’s group who are helping change the way we look and talk to one another.
Job Corps has filled me with a sense of pride and duty which were alien to me. Now I find myself staying up all night helping my wing mates build their reading skills. I am possessed by the ideas and the creativity lying dormant in my peers and feel compelled to push myself and others around me to the pinnacle of our potential.
Job Corps has given me the opportunity to discover the ability to reach others and in doing so has more than impacted my life. I see myself now on a path to the success I thought a fallacy, and once ran from.