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Joliet Job Corps students help local nonprofits

JOLIET – Betty Gavin, executive director of the Forest Park Community Center, is pleased with Joliet Job Corps students.

Gravin said these students have used their skills at the center for several years. Gavin said students have served as receptionists, security and in the food pantry.

"They even painted around the building," Gavin said.

Gavin enjoys having the students at the center.

"They have a great attitude and they're easy to work with," Gavin said. "They perform their duties as instructed."

These students are part of a work-based program that all 200 students at Joliet Job Crops are required to complete before graduating, said Wendell Martin, formerly the business and community liaison for Joliet Job Corps and now senior pastor at Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet.

The work-based program itself is nothing new, Martin said. What's new is how Joliet Job Corps is now being more intentional with implementing it. For the last several months these students, who are age 16 to 24, are spending two weeks sharing their skills at local nonprofits.

"Nonprofits are the organizations that need the students the most," Martin aid. "It's free labor for them. They can use the assistance but they [the students] can provide but not afford to hire a full-time person."

But because the Department of Labor pays the students stipends during their participation in the work-based program, the students get the benefit of real work experience – with pay – and the nonprofits receive the help they need, Martin said.

The only requirement Joliet Job Corps asks of partnering organizations is that they understand the demographics of the students Joliet Job Corps serves. Most of them are at-risk youth from urban areas, Martin said.

These students need to work with adults who "won't be short with them" or "not provide a lot of guidance," Martin said.

"They may need additional motivation, they may need added direction," Martin said. "Some of them are still being groomed in verbal and written communication, a lot of soft skills. Mostly, they need someone to give them a chance. If they're not given empathy and compassion, they tend not to do well."

Churches and other nonprofits that are "in touch" with at-risk youth are work well with this program, Martin said, such as Brown Chapel African Methodist Church and Mount Olivet.

Currently Joliet Job Corps has 215 students in its program with, on average, 10 to 12 working at a nonprofit for two weeks.

"Each location gets a new student every two weeks," Martin said.

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