Job Corps graduates first classJun 22, 2016 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer
35 students marched in Friday ceremonies
Wind River Job Corps held its first-ever commencement Friday in a ceremony that graduated 35 students at the Riverton facility.
Not all students who walked at graduation have completed their programs, but all are expected to do so within the next month.
Leslie Shakespeare, Gov. Matt Mead's liaison for the Eastern Shoshone tribe, detailed in a keynote speech how local stakeholders spent enormous amounts of time over 10 years to bring the Job Corps -- which opened in August -- into fruition.
"The all had a common belief: that the opportunities afforded here are worth it," he said.
"It's for our next generation."
Daniel McElderry, who graduated with certification in welding, told his fellow students that their unique place in the center's history carries a certain responsibility.
"Let us use these trades we are taught to build a better future, not only for ourselves, but for the next generation of students here," he said.
Before the ceremony ended, four students, included graduate Jase Rice, went to the stage to perform raps they hand penned.
Residential adviser Brandon Akao had formed the music collective to have students express themselves through hip-hop.
In his verse, truck driving graduate Rice told of how he defied the low expectations people had for him.
"They say sell drugs, or maybe play ball, 'cause that's the only way you make it out of Arkansas ... Do the wiser thing and take yourself to college, 'cause there ain't no weapon more powerful than your knowledge."
The success of this graduating class will be closely watched as the school aims to become a legacy institution of Fremont County.
Bob LeMasters, the school's advanced training coordinator, has been working with students since February to prepare them for life after Job Corps. He has been conducting mock interviews with students and working to polish their resumes. He'll follow up with students for about a year and a half.
"It's not something where we throw them out there and then forget about them," he said.
"When we see these kids at graduation, it's going to be tough," LeMasters said earlier in June. "They've been in a comfort zone. It's a big step, but they're going off to live their dreams."
As part of the push to help with acclimation, outreach coordinator Christa Stream said the Job Corps aims to have students finish their programs on a Friday and then start their next chapter -- whether that's a job or advanced training -- on the following Monday.
Stephanie Kobbe, works with students on four-week career preparedness to develop students to be "employable and self-sufficient." Before starting that work in January, she worked with students in the dorms. She said she feels blessed for having seen the same students in all aspects of their growth.
"The transformation they go through in that amount of time is awesome," Kobbe said.
Adrian Cook, a 21-year-old Riverton native who finished his welding program in May, said the program taught him to be "socially aware."
"What you put into it is what you get out of it," Cook said, stressing that those who "show determination" end up being successful.
Cook had been student body president before graduation and ended up being a face for Job Corps. Along with fellow welding student Gabe Shotgun, he went to Washington, D.C., last winter to meet with U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis.