Finch-Henry graduation

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 2, 2011

Finch-Henry grads walk on Job Corps anniversary

By John Howell Sr.
Batesville’s Finch-Henry Job Corps Center held its summer commencement Tuesday — at the 47th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing the original legislation creating the Job Corps on August 30, 1964.

The event also coincided with 30th anniversary year of its opening as the Batesville Job Corps Center in 1981, the first Job Corps Center campus in the nation to be built specifically for that purpose.

But for the approximately 150 students who were honored, the event was more about their futures than the past. During their time at the Finch-Henry Center, the students had achieved proficiency in one or more of nine skill areas — culinary arts, material handling and distribution operation, nurse’s assistant, brick laying, carpentry, painting, welding, office assistant and retail sales. Many also earned GEDs or high school diplomas in addition to the vocational training.

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But Representative Chuck Espy of Clarksdale urged graduates to continue their education.

“You’re going to have to find your way to get a master’s degree,” Espy said. He said that their competition is coming from India and China.

“There are many fighting right now to come after your jobs.”

When elected to the legislature in 1999, Espy was the Mississippi House of Representatives youngest member. Espy became active in his family’s funeral home business while founding the Chuck Espy Foundation to provide constituent assistant for families in financial crisis, according to a news release. Espy funds the foundation with his legislative salary and donor contributions.

Center Director Cordella Smith announced that the Finch-Henry Center has climbed to 34th among the nation’s 122 Job Corps centers in monthly evaluations. During Smith’s tenure as director, the Batesville facility has climbed steadily in the Outcomes Management Systems (OMS) evaluations which measure student and graduate performance factors.

Smith, who began her career with Job Corps in 1981, was working when the first students arrived at the then-brand-new center in Batesville.

“One of the things that you notice when you visit the Finch-Henry Center is that you know we’re a number one center by the way our students act,” Smith said, prompting cheers and applause from the filled gymnasium building which served as the graduation site.