Chugach employees strive to be a positive influence in the communities where they live and work. We have the privilege of managing a number of Job Corps Centers around the United States, and it’s inspiring to see the students strive toward the same goal. That is definitely the case at the Alaska Job Corps Center.
During the week that Americans celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Alaska Job Corps students honored his memory by volunteering their time to help the hungry and homeless in both Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. A total of 31 students and five staff members participated in community service activities, as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service national initiative, by volunteering at Bean’s Café and at the Mat-Su Valley’s ninth annual Project Homeless Connect.
On the morning of Jan. 18, 15 students and three staff members from the Center traveled to Bean’s Café in downtown Anchorage, where they sorted and organized toiletries and other essentials, stocked and organized the food pantry, and prepared and served food to hundreds of clients in the café. Most of the students who volunteered at Bean’s Café are active members of a student organization, called Youth2Youth Partners4Peace (or Y2Y), dedicated to preventing and eradicating bullying and youth violence.
The spirit of service in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. continued on Jan. 23 when 16 students and two instructors spent their entire day volunteering at Project Homeless Connect, an annual event organized by the United Way Mat-Su to provide information and resources to thousands of homeless and underserved people in the Valley.
Eleven security and protective services students, led by instructor Wes Rath, woke up at 5:00 a.m. and got to the Curtis Menard Center by 7:00 a.m. These students greeted and guided clients and volunteers, and provided security services throughout the day, and did not return to the Center until almost 5:00 p.m. Five culinary arts students, led by instructor Helena Rodriguez, prepared soup and sandwiches and served lunch to nearly 200 volunteers at the event.
Anthony Henry, a culinary student who prepared the broccoli cheddar soup, says he enjoyed the event because he knows how important it is for individuals in the community to be able to access these resources.
“I can understand—from my own personal experience—how people really need these resources,” said Henry. “I never had more than three pairs of socks growing up. I talked to one guy who came into the event, and he told me ‘it is a brand new day, because now I have a brand new pair of socks.’ This is really valuable for people.”
Two of the security and protective services students who volunteered at Project Homeless Connect were also part of the group who volunteered at Bean’s Café a few days earlier. Both of these students, LiAnne Fenumiai and Jackie Wassillie, are members of Y2Y. As part of Y2Y, they know how important service is to not only the community, but also to their own personal development.
“Sometimes we get so stuck in our own worlds,” said Fenumiai. “We don’t always realize how much others may be struggling. But, for me, it felt really good to not think of anything else except helping someone else. I enjoyed spending both days not doing anything for myself, but instead just doing something for others.”
Y2Y plans and holds one service activity or campus/ community event every month. For their February service activity, 10 Y2Y students will be jumping into an icy lake in the Mat-Su Plunge, to be held on Saturday, Feb. 9. The students raised $1,000 from the Alaska Job Corps Student Government Association, and although the funds will directly benefit the Mat-Su Sertoma Club, the Y2Y students are jumping to raise awareness of the problem of bullying and youth violence.
“At Alaska Job Corps, we know how important it is to serve our communities so that we can make them a better place to live and work,” said Malyn Smith, Center Director. “I am proud of the spirit of service shown by all of these students who dedicated their time and effort to great causes in both Anchorage and the Valley.”
The Alaska Job Corps Center is a federally funded career training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and managed by Chugach Educational Services, Inc. The Center is committed to providing the highest quality programs for young adults by offering instructions in academics, trades and life skills through innovative methods that respond to the unique individual and group needs of today’s youth.