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Introducing the Job Corps graduates...

Juan Perez and Jeff Hahn-Francini took different paths to Job Corps, but both leave the life-changing program with a new - and better - direction

While some Job Corps students are there because they're out of options, many are there because it's a great opportunity for them to gain experience in the trades.

To put some faces to the program, we sat down with two recent graduates to hear their stories and how the Job Corps has impacted them.

Jeff Hahn-Francini

Meet Jeff Hahn-Francini, a resident of Boring who decided that after high school he was going to take a different path toward his career.

'I had a friend who had said it was a good time, and I figured, since the economy was doing bad, that I could do some more training,' he said.

Hahn-Francini is just 22 years old. He was here at Timber Lake, not because he was forced to, but because he saw a rough job market and thought this was the best place for him. Apparently he was right.

Now that he has graduated with training in carpentry, Hahn-Francini has decided to search out advanced training so that he can come back to Job Corps as a staff member.

'I like the students around here, and while some staff have come back to work here, they haven't gone through the program themselves,' he said, 'and some students want people who know what they're going through and have been through the program.'

In just 19 months, Hahn-Francini has been transformed from a kid looking for more training to one that seems to have found his calling.

'I just like helping the younger and older students out,' he said.

Juan E. Perez Valle

Juan Perez is a 19-year-old from Eagle Creek who attended Estacada High School before dropping out.

'When I was younger I didn't make too many good decisions,' Perez said, 'and in the end my parents were getting fed up with it so they told me I either needed to find work or get out.'

With no other options on the table, Perez enrolled in the Job Corps carpentry program without knowing quite what to expect.

Fortunately for Perez and his parents, the 15-and-a-half months he spent here have given him a direction and hope that didn't seem possible beforehand. After graduating, Perez plans to get a union apprenticeship in Portland that will last four years and earn him his journeyman status, with wages of around $40/hour.

What he quickly learned about Job Corps is that the program educates students academically, but it also teaches them life lessons about the real world -- lessons of which Perez now has a better grasp.

'Back then I didn't care, I just would deal with the consequences later but now I think things over before I do them,' he said.