Jobs Corps offers ‘a different pathway’

Federally funded program wants to partner with more Maine high schools to keep struggling students from dropping out.

BANGOR — The Penobscot Job Corps takes 350 young adults — many at risk of dropping out of school — catches them up on academics and equips them with skills that make them employable.

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen visited the U.S. Department of Labor-funded residential program Thursday, the second day of his statewide listening tour.

Of the Job Corps’ 350 students, about 300 live in residences on the Bangor campus.

Most complete the program and earn their GEDs or diplomas from their home high schools after nine-and-a-half months. But any student who qualifies — largely low-income and academically struggling students — can stay up to two years.

A dozen students who have completed the Job Corps program still live on the campus and attend nearby Eastern Maine Community College and the University of Maine at Augusta – Bangor. The Job Corps offers graduates a transitional living allowance and helps set them up with jobs.

“This serves students for us that otherwise would be dropouts,” said Hermon High School Principal Brian Walsh. “This is a different pathway.”

The Penobscot Job Corps is eager to partner with more Maine high schools and serve as an alternative for students who struggle with the conventional high school curriculum, said Victoria Coffey, the program’s business and community liaison.

About 70 percent of current Job Corps students are from Maine; the other 30 percent come from throughout New England.

The Penobscot Job Corps is one of 120 Job Corps sites across the United States. There’s also a Job Corps site in Limestone, Maine.

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