By SALLY SEXTON
The Parker County Community Learning Center believes in second chances.
With the help of a grant, received by the Department of Labor in 2012 in the amount of $1.5 million, the Community Learning Center has been able to offer young adults ages 18-24 that chance through the Serve, Earn and Learn program.
“We have had about 30 participants enrolled at various times,” Connie Anderson, lead case manager for CLC, said. “We had hoped to have about 90 involved.”
Anyone willing to join the program must meet certain criteria — be a resident of Parker County, previous involvement in the juvenile justice system and no conviction in the adult system.
“It’s been tough,” Anderson said. “We’ve had lots of names, but they must meet all criteria.”
One of the main parts of Serve, Earn and Learn is the construction component. Participants are currently working on projects at the Mount Pleasant Colored School and at Camp Holland, which allows them to gain training in the construction field under constructions trainers, while also earning a stipend. Workers must commit to 32 hours a week and receive a $7.25 stipend for 20 hours. They must also commit to classroom hours, in order to help further their training and education. Participants also get training to go toward their National Center for Construction Education and Research certification, helping increase their chances of employment after graduating from the program.
“We want to keep them out of trouble and head their lives in a different direction,” Anderson said.
Other opportunities outside of the construction field are also available. Since the City of Weatherford is part of the grant as well, former participants have had internships at city offices, including the Housing Authority, Center of Hope and the fire department. The city has also donated offices in the back of City Hall for the program.
“Those not interested in construction do have other opportunities,” Anderson said. “We have two or three that are currently lined up to take their GED testing and are attending classroom training out at Camp Holland.
“We tutor them on that and even pay for the testing.”
The program also works with the participants to get them in college courses by helping them enroll or find financial aid opportunities. Depending on the course, the program may even fund the classes.
“We have one participant that is working toward their CNA and we’re paying for that,” Anderson said.
On Thursday, six workers were on hand at Mount Pleasant, sanding walls, painting and more under the direction of David Maisel.
Mason Greenwalt, 19, who has been involved since February, is getting ready to graduate from the 6-8 month program.
“I’ve passed my [construction] certification so now I’m getting prepared to find a job,” he said.
Brandon Garza, who recently graduated while taking classes and committing to the program, said he has learned a lot about teamwork through his participation.
“I’ve learned to just focus and do my work instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing,” he said.
Another participant, Stephen Ruland, said he likes the aspect of doing two things at once.
“Not only does this help keep me out of trouble, because it keeps me busy, but we’re also getting to do something good for somebody,” he said.
“There has definitely been a work ethic improvement with these guys,” Maisel added.
The Community Learning Center is constantly looking for participants interested in applying, as well as businesses and individuals looking for workers.
To find out more, visit www.clcinc.org.