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Timber Lake Job Corps students celebrate graduation
by: Jeff Spiegel State Rep. Patrick Sheehan congratulates a Job Corps graduate as he walks across the stage Aug. 17.

'A time is coming when the trades will be valued again,' said State Rep. Patrick Sheehan, and those words were music to the ears of some of the 16 Job Corps graduates sitting in front of him.

Sheehan was the guest speaker at the Aug. 17 graduation ceremony to recognize the students who had completed their training in the program, located at Timber Lake. The facility trains students in any of nine occupations while also helping some receive their high school or General Education Development diploma.

'Some people think all these kids are here because they are in trouble, but they aren't,' said Warren Cunningham, the Job Corps' business and community liaison, 'so we're doing our best to take them into the community to show people.'

What makes this program so unique is that it includes students from all over the world. Sheehan described the program as one that accommodates the students who don't fit into the cookie-cutter mold that the public education system sets out to serve.

For Sheehan - a Clackamas Republican representing Oregon House District 51 - part of his involvement here was to celebrate a return to education in the trades.

'When I was in high school we had wood shop and auto shop, but that just isn't true nowadays,' he said, 'and so I think one of the big things that we need to focus on are the trades that have been ignored for so long because we have a young, eager workforce that just isn't getting trained right now.'

Sheehan told the students about people he knew who owned their own airplanes: a doctor, a dentist - and an electrician. His point was that the electrician came from a different time when people valued the trades. Fortunately for some of the 16 kids sitting in front of him, he thinks, that time is coming back.

Over the next few months some of these students will enter college, some will enter an apprenticeship, and some will head for advanced training - all because of the opportunity Job Corps has provided them.

'It's great to see these kids see their own accomplishments on a day like today,' said Scott Olson, the center's director, 'because they have the tools to be successful now, not just academically, but socially as well.'

The Job Corps brings in new students every couple of weeks and has graduation ceremonies once a month.