My job corps experience took place from March 1999 until mid August 1999. It was, and continues to be, a nightmare from which neither my physical nor mental health have recovered. Unlike other experiences, my recruiter didn't sugar coat anything for me.. However, it soon became quite obvious that it was definitely not what I signed up for.
The medical staff was a few nurses, one doctor, and some interns. They were so incompetent as to tell me that Tavist D does NOT cause drowsiness and would not change it out for me - I had complained that it was making me fall asleep at the drop of a dime.
The security staff tried to confiscate my rescue inhaler - which meant that after 4pm and before 7:30 am, I would have access to it ONLY if a security officer could reach a nurse by the phone to get clearance to access the medical center.
They did not meet the clothing needs as promised. When I arrived, I was informed that sweat pants and logo / sports decorated articles are not allowed to be worn during the academic day (classroom hours) so that left me only one pair of black jeans, and two black shirts that I could wear (because they didn't have enough of the uniforms that I was actually supposed to have been supplied with and wearing). So upon wearing my black shirt and jeans, and the job corps supplied trench coat incidentally on the same day that a friend did, I was suspected of gang activity. During late spring, a center picnic was held. I was nauseated, in pain, and had a fever, so at the picnic I took my trench coat along to lie on/under. I was again accused of gang activity by a staff member. Clothing monetary allottments were supposed to have been given out on a particular schedule, or in my case on an "emergency" basis. MANY students never received their clothing allottments or only received a partial one. I was supposed to receive an emergency one - however, I was given no notice in advance of when I would be taken for mine. The announcement came over the intercom one evening, with a three minute warning, while I was using the bathroom. Two months later I finally did receive it - We were taken to Walmart and allowed 30 minutes to select and check out with our clothing or be left behind. Even if you were standing in line waiting to be checked out.. YES, they DID leave students there...
As a punishment in the building/trades department, students (including minors) were made to carry lumber from one side of the football field to the other for 6 hours of classroom time.
The food gave most students the s**t$... Eating 3 meals a day, I lost almost 50 lbs during my first month on center.
At one point, I caught the records manager on center over a weekend (two days before a major review). He was toting out boxloads of documents to the garbage dumpster.... So much for protecting privacy! A few weeks later when I tried to leave the center, I asked if I could review all of my records. I intended to initial each page to note that I had viewed it, as well as count the number of pages. At first, he refused to let me view them, and then as I was reviewing them, he snatched them from my hands telling me that I had no right to have them, left the room, and returned with them a few minutes later.
Upon reviewing my "pay stubs" from the bi-weekly stipends that I received, I noticed that on several occasions, the amount of taxes deducted from my pay were incorrect. Sometimes, too much was being taken. Other times, little to no taxes were being taken.. The more you make, the more tax you pay... I also came to realize that the allotted date I could take my leave was being pushed further back on the calender with each check.
I had money stolen, as well as personal items such as suitcases. Luggage was kept under lock and key by the residential advisors. Upon arrival, we had to full out a sheet with a description of our checked in luggage, tag it, and store it. The first time that I went to use my luggage, it was gone. I reported it stolen and filled out a sheet, but never received reimbursement.
SANITATION/HEALTH - During the month of April, my dormitory had no toilet paper, handsoap, or paper towels to which we could dry our hands. My dormitory had no drinking water... which means on weekends, no drinks before 11am and no drinks after 10pm! Most of the toilets were constantly backed up and overflowing. On one occasion, a fight occurred in the lower (academic) hallways and a student bled all over the wall. 11 days later, the blood was STILL all over the wall - Neither the medical staff nor safety staff wanted to take responsibility for cleaning it and students were forced to do it. It was only washed off - The area was not sanitized. There were several instances of bags of garbage simply being left in the hallways for days upon end. In my room, the heating unit was rusted (to the point that the grate cover had been removed entirely) and emitted a foul smell. Maintenance staff replaced it, telling my roommates and I that my dorm had once been the boys dorm, and the boys used to urinate down inside the heating unit. People often deficated in the showers, students were assigned "dorm duties (cleaning)" each week. We were given soap scum remover for the shower rooms, but nothing to sanitize the floors and walls after feces had been smeared all over them. I cried for three hours when my boyfriend broke up with me... and was made to see the on center psychiatrist. I never reported to them, but I often woke up with my teeth clenched so hard that my jaw hurt and I'd have a mouth full of blood. I also had a roommate who didn't like to make her bed, so after everyone else would fall asleep, she'd turn the heat from 77 degrees up to 90 degrees so that she could make up her bed at night, sleep on top the covers, and gain 10 extra minutes of sleep in the morning. Within a week of that, I became very ill with sinus infections and problems. I've had extremely severe sinus damage and problems ever since.
RACISM and DIVERSITY - I saw more reverse racism than I can count. Students were often singled out due to race / ethnicity, in instances which included : threats of being removed from their classes for speaking in their native languages, bending of rules to allow some into dining hall while denying others, earlier curfews, general bending of rules. On one unforgettable occasion, a student saved a choking girl in dining hall via heimlich while staff sat around and watched. That same week, several students held the door for an elderly lady at an off center function. The students who held the door for the lady at the off center function received a big commadation at our monthly announcement/awards gathering... While the one who saved the choking girl wasn't mentioned. The difference? .. Their ethnic background. RAs often complained about those listening to country, rock, or alternative music making those students keep their music volumes at a MUCH lower level than those who listened to Rap or R&B.
SAFETY - A 16 year old student returning from his allowed leave was left to sit at the Chicago bus station for over 15 hours. He had no money for food, nor supervision. Gang and drug activity was rampant. Despite regulations against those with felonies attending the program, MANY were being sentenced there by family judges. Several students urinated in an empty drink bottle and then poured it on the face/down the throat of a student as he was asleep. Those guilty were punished, but not removed from the center ... I witnessed several small fights and a small riot. I watched as a male student was arrested for allegedly raping another student ... However, that female student was in my room the same day bragging that she had made up the story because he had refused to date her. He was later allowed to return to the center, but the female student was never punished. Some electrical outlets hung from the walls by the wiring in the dormitories. Some practices by certain staff members were very unsafe.. which included one student being upon a ladder running wiring through a drop ceiling while a staff member pushed the back of her knee to "just check" about her fear of heights. That same staff member later "accidentally" hit her in the eye with a 3 foot length of PVC pipe. I watched as two students tried to slash the throat of another with a heavy duty box knife. One student was escorted off center for apparently having committed homicide before joining. We also had another severely disturbed student, whom I witnessed lying on the bathroom floor one evening, rolling wads of toilet paper into tiny balls before rolling them across the floor and giggling at them. Staff members were taking students off center for sexual activity - adults and not illegal, but not allowed.
BRAINWASHING/COMMUNIQUE/PRIVACY: If you wanted to talk to the center director, often times, students had to do so in fear as staff members would literally screen who visited his office or open his office door and linger within the doorway.... students would then later be confronted by staff members who hadn't been invited into the room. We were only allowed phone access via payphone from 4pm til 9pm. The payphones were set on a timer - but FAR more often than not, they would never turn on at all. If families called with dire emergencies, switchboard operators were instructed to not tell the students (even adults whose children were involved in serious accidents!) the calls were directed to their guidance counselors, who usually didn't inform the students until the end of the day or late evening no matter how dire. I heard counselors threaten students by saying "I'll tell your husband!", whenever the students performance wasn't to their expectations. I was told that I didn't need my family. I was told that I didn't need my friends. I was also told that if I didn't complete the job corps program, nothing good could become of my life. I had religion shoved upon me quite often by RAs during dorm meetings.
LEAVING CENTER: The night that I realized something was off with my paycheck stubs, I made plans to leave the center. However, the dormitory phones were turned off due to the time of day. After curfew, a staff member knocked upon my door and told me that I was being singled out for possible psychiatric issues as some other students had been and to be careful about my "loud complaints". I left with a friend at 6am the next day in the pouring rain, into a strange city neither of us really knew anything about... and waited for several hours until my parents could make the 300 mile drive to pick us both up. Once there, we weren't allowed to just get our belongings and leave.. We were pulled into a huge meeting that involved 6 or 7 staff members to "conference" with them. Most of what I have reported here, I had secretly done into a petition signed by 264 of the approximately 310 attending students at the time, and they too, attested to. A few days after I left, a DOL agency member had directed me to inform the center's records director that through the FOIA, he needed to provide me with a complete copy of my records. I received a very threatening phone call from him. I had planned to attend college while enrolled in the program, and despite asking the college coordinator for assistance in filing my FAFSA form in April, she told me that April was far too late to apply for a pell grant to enroll in for classes in June or August and refused to assist me.
When I arrived at job corps, I was very articulate. I could speak and think clearly, I always felt safe and secure. I was in good health. When I left, I had dropped 50 lbs (despite not being active), I had chronic sinus and mouth/dental problems, I was EXTREMELY paranoid and somehow in fear for my life. I was suicidal. I had nightmares, which I continue to have on the rare occasion. The paranoia has subsided somewhat, but I am still extremely aware of my surroundings and jumpy. The stress related problems continue still to this day, as do the sinus problems.
My mother had spent several years trying to get me to go to one of the state's job corps centers, and once she arrived on campus and could see for herself that there was substance to the claims that I had often called home about, she instantly regretted it, and has ever since. If you think that its the only hope for your child Please Please PLEASE reconsider... visit the potential center firsthand, and ask to view both the academic and dormitory facilities WHILE they are going throughout their normal day. I've seen photos from different centers that my friends attended, and compared to where I was.. They had the ritz carlton! Many of those at the center I attended had been in either the military or jail... and both groups said that military and jail were better in comparison.