Jake wants to go to Job Corps. He has wanted to go for a few years now – ever since he took a tour along with his brother to see what it was all about.
For those unfamiliar with Job Corps, let me give a brief description. It is basically a vocational boarding school for teens and young adults that have had trouble in school (or in life). They can learn a trade (like landscaping, carpentry, masonry, auto mechanics, culinary arts, etc) and get their GED or diploma. It is free of charge, students live on campus and receive free meals and clothes, basic medical and dental care, and get paid a small amount each month . It is also highly structured – students have to keep their dorms clean, have regular chores, get up early in the morning, with lights out at ten. It is a wonderful program and we went on tour because I was trying to get my older son interested in attending (for which now he regrets not doing).
School has been very hard for Jake – even before he actually went to regular school (he was kicked out of almost every day care he went to). His behavior problems got in the way of his academics – and even when his behavior improved, his learning disabilities made school difficult. He has had a one-on-one aide named Courtney, the last two years of school – for which I am extremely thankful as schools DO NOT want to provide aides if they can help it. Courtney helped Jake maintain his control when he got frustrated (or helped him calm down when he lost it). She helped him read and write and figure out how to solve math problems. She basically was there to support him in all aspects of school life and to cheer him on when he needed it and celebrate when he accomplished something. Having an aide has changed Jake’s life for the better.
At Job Corps, they do not have one-on-one aides. Jake wanted to go to Job Corps right after he turned 16 (the minimum age to enroll) – but I wasn’t too sure about it because he would not have an aide to help him with academics. And what would happen if Jake got mad during class? He couldn’t just yell at people and storm out of the room like he does at school. What about Jake’s sleep apnea? In high school, if he was too tired during they day, they allowed him to nap. He couldn’t do that at Job Corps. Even though I had these concerns, I told him we would pursue it since he was so adamant about going.
I filled out tons of forms, sent copies of documents, met with the school counselor, etc. We got to go to a Job Corps workshop and did an interview with the intake counselor. We talked to Jake’s best friend who had actually started at Job Corps earlier in the year – to ask him questions about it. I talked to the Head Teacher and the Job Corps Nurse at the facility Jake wanted to attend. I got as much information about it as I could – and then mulled everything over and came to the conclusion that Jake was just not ready to go. And then I had to tell him….
I sat him down and told him that I wanted him to listen to everything I had to say – that he may get mad – but I wanted him to hear me out before he said anything. He took a deep breath and listened. I told him the things I was concerned about. I told him how he would still have to get a GED or diploma at Job Corps and they would not have someone to help him in the same way as Courtney would (if you don’t have a GED or diploma by the time you get done with Job Corps, they lose funding). I told him that he could still go to Job Corps until he was 24. And I told him we could sit down together to come up with a plan to focus on the areas that he had trouble with. I suggested he go to school at least one more year to be better prepared. And I waited for the yelling.
But there was none. Instead, Jake seemed relieved. He told me he thought another year of school would be good and that he needed to do more things around the house, like keep his room cleaner and take out the trash regularly, to get ready for Job Corps. He also wants to come up with a better sleep schedule so he won’t be so tired. We talked a bit more and then he got up and went to play video games. And I sat back and breathed.
I think it was important to Jake that I took him seriously about going to Job Corps. We now know a lot more about the program, so won’t go into it blindly and hope for the best. Another year (or two) will help Jake to become more prepared, so that when he does actually go, he will have a better chance for success. I think he can do it – given the right strategies to manage his behavior and time to improve his academics. I am just thankful that he took it all in stride. My little boy is growing up.