Roswell Job Corps graduates enter Pueblo Auditorium for commencement ceremonies, Friday. (Mark Wilson Photo)
As one of 125 centers nationwide, Roswell Job Corps Center participated in the third annual national commencement day Friday.
Students come and go each week, said business community liaison JoAnn Lopez, but this annual graduation was to recognize all of the students who had gone through RJCC and received not only a GED, but also learned a trade.
“It’s a combination of hard work and opportunity,” Lopez said of the program. And these students were supported, not only by the program, but also by the community.
“Many of these kids are not from Roswell,” Lopez said. “But they adopt Roswell as their community and Roswell in turn adopts them.”
Through RJCC, students are required to complete 360 hours in their chosen field. Roughly 100 graduates proved this was an accomplishable task, but only about half of those students were actually at the ceremony. Many are already working, have joined the military or are attending college.
For some students, this was a second chance at achieving a goal. Dejnee Hargraves, 19, found a new pride in herself when she took up the trade of culinary arts and officially completed the program on June 7.
“I’m very happy and proud of myself,” Hargraves said. “I didn’t think I could do it.” But not only did she complete the program, she also wore two tassels around her neck: gold for taping out (progressing) in reading, and white to show she has already secured a job in her field of study.
Fellow graduate, Johnna Jones, 19, was also bursting with excitement. Her trade of choice was automotive, something her dad got her interested in.
“I grew up around it, and my dad said cars are much more technical now, and it would be good to be up-to-date,” she said. “And I like getting dirty,” she added with a laugh.
For Jones, it was not only about getting a degree, but also about growing up. She said she matured a lot during her stay at Job Corps.
“People act like little kids, and I didn’t want to be like that,” she explained. So RJCC helped her reach that goal as well. Jones graduated with a gold tassel as well as a gray tassel, communicating that she taped out of reading as well as math. She plans to continue her automotive education at ENMU-R.
As the crowd settled and students prepared for their long awaited walk across stage, some of the faculty was already tearing up.
“As soon as it starts, I start crying,” Lopez admitted. “(The best part) is watching those students walk across the stage who thought (before that) they were nothing.”