My Job Corps Story: Vance Wild, Advanced Welding

My Job Corps Story: Vance Wild, Advanced Welding

Advanced Welding Grad, Vance Wild

Vance participating in the custom of ringing the Chapel bell on his last day.

The year was 2017, and I was about 19 years old at the time. I was still enjoying the graduation high of just finishing high school;  having more freedom and independence in my life. This was a shared dream shared amongst students in the school system of where I lived. Not sure what to do with my life, I went straight back to flipping burger patties at Wendy’s. The pay was low, and the customer’s entitlement was high.  I was at my wit’s ends.  Working at a fast-food restaurant was not what I had imagined for myself when I thought of the future.

One busy grease-filled day, an old friend of mine from CAT (North Center of Applied Technology) came into the fast-food restaurant. Out of the blue, there he was; wearing his company HVAC company uniform.  Like me, he attended CAT North for Welding. He was working a great job, using a skill he learned in school, which made him a shoo-in for an HVAC job. So, we chatted for a bit, and I came to the realization that I was wasting my life working at Wendy’s. I had all of this Welding knowledge I was not using. Instead, I am working at Wendy’s. I already started building towards a career when I was at CAT North. Then I put myself on pause by going the easy way. It was time to “push play” and get back in the game.

The first time I heard about Job Corps was when my Ma was re-telling a story about her time in Pennsylvania Job Corps and the crazy antics that she and her friends played.  I decided to look it up and found out that there was one close to home with basic welding. I decided I was going to go to Job Corps and applied.

I went to Woodstock Job Corps, located in Woodstock, Maryland, on July 25th, 2018, and it was the first time I went to a mostly black school. It was bizarre and mind-boggling as I have never been to any form of school that was majority African  American. I’ve always gone to a primarily White school which makes sense as most of Pasadena, Maryland, is White. Woodstock students mostly came from Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. area.  The first day went pretty smoothly.

The first class I took was a common-sense class, such as proper clothes, manners,  attitude, and how not to jump to violence in every situation.  I kept thinking this    information seemed almost juvenile and having a class on it was dumb. For other students, this class was quite a struggle as it introduced a new approach to problem-solving.  When it dawned on me,  most students who started simultaneously as    myself came from hooded parts of D.C and Baltimore.  It also made me aware that culturally making friends or trying to form any connections would be difficult.

The different life experiences made it difficult to cross these boundaries because what I found interesting and important was utterly different from my peers. I felt out of place, but I didn’t let it deter me, so I focused on my trade. The welding shop was old and very cramped, but the teacher was polite and knowledgeable.

Once I was done with basic welding, I decided to go a bit further and applied to Advance Welding.  My goal was to gain more knowledge and skills, which led me to Northland Job Corps Center located in Vermont.  This state is the furthest I have ever been from home. I was excited at the thought of going to a new state with a cold climate. It was different than what I was used to. I was used to a humid environment. Now I have acclimated and have grown accustomed to a colder climate. My time in Northlands has probably been the most peaceful and enlightening two years. All the staff is friendly and helpful, and I learned a lot from my Advance Welding Teacher Jim Blanchard.  He was the first person in my entire life to give me a kick in the butt.  I needed this push for motivation and to provide me with a new sense of confidence.  The atmosphere was friendly and beautiful, especially the fantastic views around the campus and the nearby town. Dorm life was pretty easygoing, and the food wasn’t all that bad.

My time in Job Corps has taught me many things about life and my trade and all the friends I made along the way, which makes this process of typing out my experiences all the more painful. I mean, it’s over, which for other students is    probably the best thing ever, but for some reason, I can’t help feel sad about it. All of this reflection has made me aware that saying good-bye might not be as easy as I thought it would. It was a long a lengthy process that had its challenges,  but despite that, I would, without a second thought, if given a choice, do it all over again.

Life after Job Corps has two parts.  The long-term plan I have involves going back home to Maryland and attaining an entry-level welding job full time.  Once established in a job, I want to pursue my degree first through community college and then a University for a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  When it’s time to go to college, I’ll probably go to a different state and maybe find a place to live for the two to four years that it may take to earn a degree. My short-term plan is to get a car to go further and not rely on others to get to destinations and gain more independence.

Hopefully, whoever is reading my story can pull a message from my experiences. I’m a stranger that you will never meet.  Knowing my account may or may not help, but it’s there for you anyways. Always keep up the excellent work, and        remember to go beyond your limits, plus ultra.

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