By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register — GAINES — So just what is the Iroquois Job Corps? Tuesday night, a number of Orleans County legislators, supervisors, and town board trustees found out at a meeting in the Town of Gaines.
Business and Community Liaison Melinda Maedl spoke to the group about the corps, located on Tibbets Road in Medina.
Maedl said the corps serves youth across not only the GLOW region (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming Counties) but all of New York State. The facility helps to provide young adults ages 16 to 24 with “employability” skills and steers them toward becoming productive citizens.
Maedl said the “three ‘e’s’” are part of the focus among the Iroquois Job Corps staff and students. Those e’s are employment, enrollment in college, or enlistment in the military.
The program, she said, is self-paced as students enter with a plan custom made for their individual needs. There is a selection process to go through, involving a background check. Maedl said students need to meet certain guidelines before enrolling in the program.
Students who enroll can learn a trade either in construction or the health care field. Hands-on experience both on and off the center grounds is part of the instructional process, Maedl said.
Other students attend the Iroquois Job Corps to earn their GED or get a drivers license.
The center also helps create an environment in which students learn the skills that will enable them to keep their jobs.
Two such students shared their unique stories with the elected officials Tuesday night.
Ashley Henderson, 20, of Rochester, said the Iroquois Job Corps helped her turn her life around. She said her childhood family problems led to her dropping out of high school because she could not focus. “All I could think about was the stuff going on at home,” she recalled.
A friend who went to a different job corps location told her about the program, which she said she though was “too good to be true.” Facing her fear and leaving home for the first time, Henderson said she finally “put myself first” and tried to be a role model for her niece.
Now, Henderson said her life has done a complete 180. Thanks to staying in the program, she said she has earned her high school diploma and learned to be a more confident communicator. Most recently she became a CNA (certified nursing assistant).
Ashley Holbrook, 19, of York, also had a rough childhood. Citing the lack of a decent father figure and the grudge she held against her mother because of that, Holbrook said she eventually rebelled.
“I left when I was 18,” she said. Holbrook said she had been accepted to enroll at Alfred State College, but since she left her mother she had no way of paying for school. Eventually, she realized she needed to get her life back together, and she started by bringing her mother back into her life.
“She encouraged my participation with the job corps,” Holbrook said. She added part of what opened her eyes to changing her ways was a friend who passed away in a car accident. With all the partying she was doing, she recalled, “I could have been that girl.”
Now, like her former roommate Henderson, Holbrook has earned her CNA qualifications and has discovered it is better to lead than to follow. She participated in the center’s dorm leadership programs, and was awarded for some of her work.
“I’m glad I’m here, and I know I’m better than what I was,” she told the officials. “I really don’t know what I’d be doing now without the corps.”