Collbran Job Corps marks its 50th anniversary

Collbran Job Corps Director Gove Aker gives a “thumbs up” as he recognizes the hard work of certain students on an “Uno de Mayo” celebration several days earlier during the early Monday morning assembly in the center’s gym. Aker was recently recognized himself by his fellow Job Corps directors with the 2014 Job Corps National Directors Honor Award.

An old black and white photograph shows the Collbran Job Corps campus as it appeared in the 1960s soon after it first opened its doors to teens and young adults.

A banner celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Job Corps hangs on the wall of the gym at the Collbran Job Corps.

Chase Thompson, right, of Colorado Springs greets a visitor to the center with a firm handshake. Students work on their handshakes the second day after they arrive at the center.

Dozens of students holding leadership positions line the sidewalk to the gym to greet guests and visitors before the early morning Monday assembly at the Collbran Job Corps.

Ryan Hammack of Fort Collins is the coordinator of Mountain View men’s dorm, one of four residence halls. At Mountain View, male students sleep in seven-bed bays that are inspected daily. The campus also has two dorms for the female students.

Tyrus Androlewicz, right, works with 16-year-old Tyler Day, second from right, on two-step equations as they study algebra at the center’s high school.

Victoria Mayo, right, gets a hug from Director Gove Aker as Student Government President Kevin Cummings holds her new gold coat, signifying Victoria will be joining the ranks of the top leadership.

Cooper Stimpson of Livingston, Alabama, gives a brief tour of the Cisco networking laboratory. The lab has more than $2 million in equipment.

Job Corps welding student Ulyssius Ball of Colorado Springs works shop at the Collbran center.

Culinary arts student Juan Coronado smooths the surface of a pan of Spanish rice that will be served to the center’s students later in the day during lunch.

Carpentry students Andrina Oliver, left, of Grand Junction, and Marquale Bedford of Chickasha, Oklahoma, work on a frame.

Students participating in the cement masonry vocational training build the base for a sculpture being created by other students to memorialize the 50th anniversary of the Collbran Job Corps.

The sign at the main entrance to the Collbran center displays the interagency cooperation between federal government agencies. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Collbran Job Corps is administrated and operated by the Department of Agriculture along with the Forest Service.

Dew still shimmered on the grass in the early morning sunlight as the color guard stood at attention to the rat-a-tat of snare drums.

A rainbow arc of dozens of student leaders in colored coats lined the sidewalk to the gym in the crisp mountain air at the Collbran Job Corps’ Civilian Conservation Center nestled in the valley along Plateau Creek.

Each one greeted the guests with eye contact, a polite “good morning!” and a firm handshake before entering the gym for the week’s assembly.

For nearly five decades, the Collbran Job Corps has provided thousands of disadvantaged teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 with a future.

The center combines a high school and a trade school with the structure of a boot camp “lite,” with training in manners and social skills thrown in. Posters and signs hung inside the center’s buildings emphasize achievement, teamwork and positive attributes aimed at guiding students toward developing a new self-image and an improved outlook on life.

The approximately 200 students enrolled at the Collbran center stay in the residential program for about two years, during which their education, vocational training, room and board are provided at no cost.

Through the hands-on training provided at the center, Collbran Job Corps students can choose to learn vocational skills in a variety of areas: office administration technology, Cisco networking, welding, culinary arts, property maintenance, floor covering, carpentry and cement masonry. A wildland firefighter training program recently was added to the vocation selections.

The national Job Corps program was part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and was only supposed to last five years. The Collbran Job Corps’ Civilian Conservation Center opened in 1965, one of 88 centers opened during the program’s first year.

Today, there are 122 Job Corps centers across the country. Hundreds of thousands of teens and young adults have completed the program nationwide, with about 90 percent of graduates joining the workforce, going on to college or other higher education, or joining the military.

On June 12, the Collbran Job Corps center will celebrate its 50th anniversary — that’s just three days shy of the actual anniversary of the center’s opening on June 15, 1965 — and a half-century of thousands of young lives changed for the better.


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