A few acres in Hartford’s southwest corner have seen it all. From war housing for defense workers during World War II to a failed public housing project plagued for decades by poverty and crime to a promising residential job training campus for the area’s at-risk youth.
This transformation has replaced violence with education, and despair with hope. At the Hartford Job Corps Academy, built in 2004, at-risk 16-24 year olds receive job skills training, industry certifications, GEDs, high school diplomas, and drivers’ education. Most importantly, upon graduation approximately 90% of program graduates become gainfully employed, move on to college, or join the armed forces within nine months.
The Job Corps program is funded through the US Department of Labor and was initiated in 1964 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Students at the Hartford Job Corps Academy can choose from five career tracks: Certified Nurse Assistant, Clinical Medical Assistant, Advanced Manufacturing, Insurance, or Banking. Students may live residentially on campus in the dormitory, or commute non-residentially from the local area on a daily basis. Some students also choose to stay and receive support for their first year or two of college. In addition to education and training, students receive meals, basic health and dental care, and clothing allowance for free. This Job Corps program is offered at no cost to eligible students in an attempt to create educated, employed, and self-sufficient young adults for today’s workforce.
In 2012 alone, 103 high school dropouts or undereducated youth obtained high school diplomas or GEDs at the Hartford Job Corps Academy. Additionally, 196 students earned industry-recognized credentials; and 177 formerly jobless youth secured jobs in Hartford or surrounding communities. In additional to academic and career technical training, students learn about community service; participate in support groups focused on parenthood, anger management, and leadership; and discover what it takes to be a professional in today’s workforce.
From the words of recent HJCA graduate and current employee of a local manufacturing business, Vijay Allen said, “At the Hartford Job Corps Academy, I have grown tremendously in every aspect of my life. I have developed my interpersonal skills, I have become more friendly, helpful, open minded, and more focused on what I want to achieve out of life. My goals have all come together now and my true potential is now starting to show.”
With a full design capacity of 200 students, the Hartford Job Corps Academy graduates approximately 10-15 students per month; who enter the workforce with a renewed sense of self, achievable goals of professional success, and a desire to leave a brighter trail for future generations.