Job Corps 50th editorial 8/19/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Batesville has great reasons to celebrate Job Corps’ 50th

It began as an unlikely alliance between a stalwart Mississippi civil rights leader and a Mississippi governor whose early politics could by no means be viewed as favorable toward the civil rights movement in this state in the 1960s.

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Yet by the time Cliff Finch ran for governor in 1975, his outlook had so completely evolved that he was able to rally a combination of black and white voters, the “Blackneck/Redneck Coalition,” whose votes swept him into the Governor’s chair.

When Finch took office in 1976, he and Aaron Henry had worked together to reunite the Mississippi Democratic Party after the 1964 split between the traditional white Democrats who had controlled Democrat politics in the state since reconstruction and the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, organized during Freedom Summer to give newly-registered black voters access to the Democratic Party.

The two men also worked together on other projects, most noticeably for Batesville, the Job Corps center that would be built here and that would ultimately bear the name of both.

That the Finch-Henry Job Corps Center got built in Batesville is a good story in itself, but there is an even better story.

Job Corps serves mostly under-privileged youth, giving them a second chance, for some a last chance, to make better lives for themselves. Panola County can be proud that the FHJCC is located here. 

The campus on Highway 51 South is a place where 300 or so young people who might otherwise lose hope for their future find traction to begin anew. They learn vocational and academic skills but they also gain more. 

When they leave it is more than the sum of job skills learned and academic courses pursued. It is with a sense of accomplished a goal, of having belonged to the student body of an institution whose staff bent over backwards to open the student to as many possibilities and opportunities as can be crammed into the student’s campus tenure. 

That the Job Corps concept works has been borne out over and over as the Dept. of Labor continually measures outcomes to determine if graduates find jobs, if they find jobs commensurate with their training and skill levels and if they stay with the jobs they find. 

There is a reason Job Corps consistently finds bipartisan support in Congress for funding. Job Corps has proven itself a success.

Job Corps is celebrating young lives this week — young lives whose horizons have been expanded.  Batesville joins that celebration this week, celebrating that young lives have been impacted right here in our own community.