By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
The Gadsden Job Corps Center recently welcomed Eric Jones as its new center director.
Jones has been employed by Alutiiq since 2011. Alutiiq recently took over the Gadsden Job Corps Center contract.
Jones has a unique perspective as center director since he actually went through a similar vocational program after dropping out of high school, where he was able to obtain a GED. He said that he had a lot of negative examples around him as he was growing up.
“I’m kind of the poster child for Job Corps,” said Jones. “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Jones said that his first week in the Job Corps-type program, he was sent home for arguing with his roommate. His parents kicked him out, telling him that he could not stay if he would not be responsible and go to school. The program counselors let him return, but used the experience to teach him life lessons.
Jones credits his success from tough love, not only from his parents, but also from his wife. Jones met his wife when he was five years old, but she refused to marry him until he graduated from the program. Now the couple has been married for 28 years and have three sons together.
After completing the program Jones “followed his five year plan.” He attended college on a scholarship from the program and got an associates degree. He went on to the Pittsburg State University in Kansas for his bachelor’s degree. After college, Jones was offered a job as a counselor in a Job Corps program. He worked his way up to center director, obtaining his master’s degree along the way.
“I never thought in a million years that I would be running Job Corps,” said Jones. “I love it, and I won’t do anything but this. This is my mission; this is my ministry. I love helping kids and inspiring them.”
As the new center director, Jones has a lot of ideas about how to improve the program. Jones said that Alutiiq is interested in community.
“A lot of our initiatives right now are really training staff on how to provide holistic services for at-promise youth, so they can become successful tax-paying citizens,” said Jones.
The students will have career mentoring teams, where every student has a group of mentors that helps them be successful and get employed, attend college or join the military.
“That’s what the Job Corps is all about- The American Dream,” said Jones.
Alutiiq is also pushing for stronger community partnerships and expanding current partnerships. One of the initiatives is offering dual enrollment in the Job Corps Center and the local high schools.
The company also plans to expand its programs, including offering virtual security training, since Alutiiq holds some military security contracts. Current programs are also expected to expand, including the carpentry and culinary arts programs.
The Job Corps Center plans to incorporate sports into the program, as well, to increase its students chances at receiving scholarships.
For more information about the Gadsden Job Corps Center and its programs, visit gadsden.jobcorps.gov/home.