Job Corps employees help young adults find career success

A.J. Norwood
Oxford Stories

Creating opportunities for the next generation is a vital for a successful future. The Finch-Henry Job Corps Center in Batesville provides students age 16 to 24 with another chance at life by putting them on a career path to better their future.

The Job Corps Center serves young people by improving the quality and satisfaction of their lives through vocational and academic training. Many people make that possible.

Cordella Smith serves as the Career Services director. She previously served as the center director for 10 years. The Job Corps Center organization as a whole works to serve at-risk students.

“The Finch-Henry Job Corps Center provides an opportunity for students to get a GED, high school diploma, or a skill,” she said. “Ultimately, our goal is to help young people see where they were and allow them to see the potential that they have. We want them to utilize their talents to be productive citizens when they leave the center.”

Smith never foresaw herself attending college because of early life struggles. “I oftentimes tell the young people that I’m totally dedicated to them being successful,” she said. “When I look at future generations, I look at my 4-year-old and 6-year-old grandsons. I say to my students, ‘I have to teach you the right things because one day you will have to instill those same morals and values into my grandsons.’ I have to make sure that what I’m doing today impacts young people.”

Smith has reached numerous students, but one stands out.

“I saw a student come here without a GED,” she said. “Her mother passed away on drugs. Her father had to raise four kids…I saw this young girl try to emulate me by taking on leadership roles once she got here.

“That same student was able to go to Northwest, graduate with honors, go to Tougaloo and graduate magna cum laude . . . To be a role model and for students to want to emulate a pattern for themselves after me was a great turning point for me.”

As a part of the Job Corps program, annual graduations are held for students. Smith said she knows her work hasn’t been in vain when she sees students walk across the stage.

“We don’t ever want students to drop out of high school, but we want them to realize that the Job Corps Center is just another resource for them to grasp,” she said.

After the Job Corps program, students enter the workforce. Cassandra Benson works with Career Transition Services at Finch Henry helping young adults build careers and become productive citizens.


“We teach them interpersonal and multicultural skills,” Benson said. “They can obtain many credentials and ongoing followup services as a completion incentive for this program.”

Benson said she’s seen many young people come into the center with low self-esteem, who doubt they can be successful.

“I’ve seen individuals at their lowest point, having to encourage them that they can succeed,” she said. “Once they obtain that goal, I see that gratification in their behavior . . .The students have seen a cap and gown, but they never knew the feeling of actually wearing it. It’s like giving them an opportunity to participate in a graduation that they may have never had the chance to because they didn’t complete public school.”

Center Director, Alexander Alston, is pictured here. Photo by A.J. Norwood.

The Job Corps Center helps students all around the world. Alexander Alston is the director for the Gulfport Job Corps Center. He has been with the Job Corps program since 1982.

“This a 24-hour job,” he said. “Here at Job Corps, we ensure career success standards and a trade for a job. We have a really high emphasis on social skills. We work with a lot of at-risk students, so we stress growth and development. They’ve also got to be able to communicate.”

Since Alston joined the program, he has had many personal success stories with students. “The most meaningful thing to me would be just the satisfaction of helping a young person,” he said. “We stress to them that Job Corps is not the end of it. We encourage them to continue and learn.”

Because of the Job Corps program, many students have moved on to bigger and better things. “We have students working in the electrical field at Ingalls Shipbuilding where they build ships,” Alston said. “There’s also many students who have finished up and gone to the military. I’ve seen them promoted in their ranks. It’s a tremendous feeling seeing what the students accomplish.”

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