Free job training program coming back to Gulfport

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - From 33rd Avenue in Gulfport, you can see the shattered windows and torn-up rooftops. The buildings at the Gulfport Job Corps have sat vacant since Katrina ravaged the campus.

The only sign of life is in the female dormitory.  Out of ten buildings, it is the only one that is usable.

"It was really devastating," said Lillie Graves.

Graves is one of 12 employees who are working to bring the program back.  She spent 28 years helping school dropouts or low-income young people earn their GED's, learn a job skill, and get started on new career.

"It has truly, truly been hard.  But we've maintained.  We've kept busy.  But we just can't wait to get them back," said Graves.

It won't be long before students, ages 16 to 24, can return to the Gulfport site.  Eight modular buildings are going up that will house the administrative offices, medical support, a cafeteria, academic training, and medical trades.

Initially, four vocational trade programs will be available:  Electrical, Nursing Assistant, Medical Office Support, and Clinical Medical Assistant.

"We will have residential students living in this dorm building: 34 females and 34 males.  And we will have 68 non-residential students who will come to the center daily for training, for a total of 136 students," said Alexander Alston, Director of the Gulfport Job Corps.

"The Job Corps program will be the same program that was here before, just on a smaller scale, until we can get the permanent center built," he added.

And land has been cleared to build a male dormitory. The two-story building will house 150 students.  Construction is expected to start in about five months.

The fate of the remaining buildings on the property is still up in the air.  The center director says eventually, the heavily-damaged buildings will have to come down.

"We just know that new buildings are supposed to start being built, but we don't have a time frame for that yet," said Alston.

Job Corps leaders say they're glad an interim program is coming back to fill a huge need.

"I didn't think it would take this long," said Graves.  "But patience, I'm not a very patient person, but it's really exciting."

The company MINACT has been hired to run the Job Corps program.  Classes are expected to start sometime this fall.

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