Youth seek strong start through Job Corps

Twenty-year-old Tony Bivens can’t remember a time he wasn’t dropping by Kids First after school to see Miss Cindy.

“When I opened the doors (Tony) was one of the first ones here,” said Kids First Director Cindy Hawkins. “It’s so great to see them grow up and make something of themselves.”

Hawkins recently helped Bivens; Jordan Cohill, 17; and Tyrone Wheeler, 19; apply and get accepted into Job Corp programs.

“Basically, she didn’t want me getting in trouble,” Bivens said. “She wanted me to do something real with my life.”

The idea behind Job Corps is to provide free education and training that will prepare students to be successful throughout life. The program focuses on young adults age 16-24. The students live on campus while they complete GEDs and various vocational training.

Bivens and Cohill leave later this summer to live on campus in Montgomery, while Wheeler will take classes in Atlanta.

“I’m elated for them,” Hawkins said. “I feel like now they really have the chance to do whatever their hearts desire. They might have found a job, but now they will have skills that will set themselves up for long-term success.”

Bivens plans to get into welding and car painting. Cohill hopes to one day own a car dealership. While in the Job Corp program he’ll take business courses to build the skills he needs to reach that goal.

Wheeler wants to dig his senses into culinary arts. He discovered the field during a class in high school and hopes to one day become a chef in a five-star restaurant.

Job Corps provides the students with things like dorm-like housing, food and job placement. Everything is taken care of if they are willing to be disciplined, Wheeler said.

Hawkins said the important part is that the young men made the conscious decision to follow this path. She said she sees the Kids First program as a springing board for their futures. Kids First just provides a safe place for them to come do homework, be kids and maybe grab a snack, she said.

The guys see it as much more though.

“It’s like home,” Cohill said. “It gives you a chance to be a good influence and make a difference.”