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Job Corps about halfway to full enrollment; many students are local

Jan 29, 2016 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Members of the Wind River Job Corps community relations council were pleased to hear that many students currently enrolled at the Riverton facility hail from Fremont County.

Out of about 150 students, council members said not quite half are from Wyoming, and roughly one-third are county residents.

"That's good," Northern Arapaho tribal liaison Sergio Maldonado said. "It's serving the local community, which is what it's all about."

Fort Washakie superintendent Terry Ebert said many of the Wyoming and Fremont County students at Job Corps may not have enrolled if the facility hadn't been built in Riverton.

"I certainly hope it's a positive investment for all of us," Ebert said. "It's a government program, and it belongs to all of us. It should be intended to help our kids."

Diversity

Terry Settlemire at Wyoming Workforce Services said, based on his observations, most of the Wyoming students at Job Corps grew up on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

"It's really impressive," he said. "I think the Job Corps is a big plus for us."

As Job Corps enrollment numbers continue to increase toward the center's 300-student capacity limit, Maldonado said he'd like to see another 50 or more students come from the WRIR.

He also thinks administrators should be sure to employ staff members who represent the diversity of the local community.

Settlemire said he has been helping area residents fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for Job Corps positions.

Recruitment

Job Corps representatives recruit students locally and from throughout the United States. Some students seek out the Wind River facility, which is the first Job Corps to specialize in energy trades.

Clarence Thomas, who directs three juvenile services programs on the WRIR, suggested that the center send student ambassadors to other reservations throughout the region to advocate for the program.

"I think they would gain a lot more numbers if they did that recruitment from those tribes," he said.

Christa Stream, business and community liaison and outreach/admissions and career transition services coordinator for the Job Corps, said administrators anticipate reaching the 300-student capacity limit by the second quarter of the year. Last summer, center director Julie Gassner thought the facility would have 300 students by January 2016.

"They'll get there eventually," Riverton Chamber of Commerce executive director Jim Davis said. "They said early on, it's not going to be nobody today and everybody there tomorrow."

Job Corps students arrive in cohorts of about 20 people each, with the first group starting in August 2015.

Women

Davis noted that some Job Corps students are allowed to live off-campus, making it easier for community members to enroll while maintaining their current housing situations. For example, he said he met one student who was living in Fort Washakie with her husband while they both took Job Corps courses.

Riverton Mayor Lars Baker said family considerations may be contributing to a lack of female students at the Job Corps.

"If they have a challenge right now I think it's that they don't have enough women," he said. "They're not getting enough women in the program."

He believes the Job Corps would attract more women if it housed an on-site day care center.

"Of course you've got some local women that can go there and live in the community, and their moms take care of the kid during the day, but that isn't working out very good for bringing someone in from out of town," he said.

"If we could get that dorm built so we had a place for moms that have got a baby, and so that there's day care while they're gone during the day time, then we can get those women ramped up with some job skills. That's going to change their lives forever."

A family dorm and child care facility were included in design work for the center but were not funded as part of the initial construction project. Baker said there still is space for the day care, however.

"The left the hole out there," he said. "So what we're hoping for is that once Job Corps is up and moving and running and there are some success stories to talk about, the money will come to build this dependent family dorm."

The money would come from the federal government, he said, but an effort to raise matching funds locally may "drag those federal dollars to town."

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