Collbran Job Corps marks its 50th anniversary
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.