Theyre No. 1
Springdale Job Corps Center earns top marks for 2010-11
In the auto shop, Patrick Albertson, 23, is busy sanding paint on the detached hood of a Chevrolet Cavalier as his instructor, Jerry Rudich, looks on.
Taking a break, Albertson talks about why he's learning to be an automotive technician at Springdale Job Corps Center, a residential school located at 31224 E. Historic Columbia River Highway.
'I like fixing the cars, maintaining them and making them look nice,' he says.
His fellow student, Jacob Beard, 22, shares similar sentiments.
'I'm here because I've always been a hands-on kind of guy,' he says. 'I can't stand the idea of sitting behind a computer. I need to be moving and active.'
His classmates nod their heads in agreement. These are guys who like the look of a car, the roar of an engine, the smell of gasoline and oil.
Some, like Buddy Conan, 20, see working in the shop more like a hobby while others, including Angel Perez, 19, see money to be made detailing and painting cars.
'I like restoring cars,' adds Mike Harding, 22, who plans on continuing his automotive studies at Mt. Hood Community College this fall. 'I like the feeling you get after you're finished.'
If they play their cards right, these students could someday make between $60,000 and $100,000 or more annually as auto technicians, Rudich says. However, the teacher says he sees something more important going on in his shop than young folks learning to fix cars.
'It's kind of nice to see these young men trying to improve themselves and make a better life for themselves,' he says.
The young mechanics have chosen one of the best places in the country to prepare for their future careers. In July, the U.S. Department of Labor named Springdale and PIVOT, its satellite center in Northwest Portland, the nation's No. 1 Job Corps Center for 2010-11 out of 124 such centers.
The center helps low-income students ages 16-24 obtain high school or general equivalency diplomas and trains them in such areas as culinary arts, medical office support, office administration, auto body collision repair and paint, protective services and security or health occupations.
The center's No. 1 ranking was based on a combination of how well it does in such areas as literacy instruction, career training and job placement, according to Asha Swem, spokeswoman. Dave Pomeroy, the center's director of finance and administration, summed up how he and other employees felt when they heard the news.
'We were ecstatic!' he says. 'It's been a superb year.'
Pomeroy cited a labor department report card noting Springdale was in the top 20 of the nation's Job Corps centers when it came to helping students obtain high school diplomas or GEDs (13th); in improving student literacy (16th) and in enrollee job placement (No. 3).
'Most of the students are high school dropouts,' he says. 'This is a program that really turns them around.'
Indeed, Donna Patrick, the center's director, says she's constantly moved by how Job Corps changes lives.
For example, she says, 'A young woman entered our program with significant learning disabilities and drug and alcohol abuse issues,' yet 'she found the motivation and inspiration to direct herself on a very successful path.'
The young woman entered the center's certified nursing assistant program and, after completing that training, was then accepted into Springdale's Advanced College Training program.
'This student called me the other day to inform me in excitement, 'I have been accepted into the registered nursing program at Mt. Hood Community College, and it all started with Springdale Job Corps!' '
Such stories get her up in the morning, Patrick adds.
'This is why I work here.'
The smell of curry wafts through the cafeteria during lunchtime at the center. In the kitchen, Shayne Sellers, 17, a culinary arts student, is helping prepare tasty dishes for the hungry students and staff.
She notes she dropped out of high school in Olympia, Wash., when she was a sophomore, but then decided she needed to go somewhere where she could learn to become a self-sufficient adult.
'Mostly, I've learned about how to be a consistent worker,' she says, adding she hopes to join the Coast Guard and continue her training as a cook.
She beams as she describes all the things she likes to do with squash, including making crepes, and how she's learned to make meals that are not only delicious but visually pleasing as well.
'Good homey food is great, but I like having a neat way of presenting it,' she says.
Pomeroy and Patrick note making students like Sellers employable means they are less likely to wind up on public assistance, less likely to turn to illegal activity to get by, and more likely to pay taxes someday. They just need some help believing they can live the American dream, Pomeroy says.
'A lot of these kids who come in here really don't have much,' he says, noting the center can provide community college scholarships to qualified students. 'We really want to get them back on their feet.'
Springdale Job Corps Center facts
Chugach World Services and Management and Training Corp. contract with the U.S. Department of Labor to operate the Springdale Job Corps Center.
The center serves about 320 students a year, mostly from Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho, and residential students - the bulk of enrollees - are provided free room and board.
For every $1 invested in Job Corps, a return of more than $1.90 in local economic activity is realized. That's because the center generally uses local vendors and contractors to provide such services as paper shredding, food service and physical plant maintenance
Center staff and students provided more than 2,300 volunteer hours in 2010-11 to such organizations as ReBuilding Center, Schoolhouse Supplies, SOLV and many more. The center estimates it provided more than $85,000 worth of volunteer labor from April 2010 to March 2011.
Springdale provides jobs for 87 employees, making it a leading area employer.
The center works with such partners as Portland Art Museum, Oregon Historical Society, Mackin's Auto Body, Kadel's Auto Body, Job One USA Security, the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, McMenamins, the Oregon Humane Society, Porto Terra/Hilton Hotel Restaurants and Village Health Care, among others.
For more information, call 503-695-2245 or visit springdale.jobcorps.gov.