Cherokee Nation’s Talking Leaves Job Corps offers vocational opportunities

Tahlequah, Oklahoma (CNC)

In order to help young people secure the needed training to ensure a brighter future, the Cherokee Nation’s Talking Leaves Job Corps (TLJC) creates a vocational setting that provides opportunities for its students.

“Talking Leaves is a learning facility that the Cherokee Nation is proud of,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “Many of our students come to us in need of assistance and guidance, I’m pleased to say that participants leave with the skills necessary to build stable futures.”

TLJC is an Indian preference vocational training facility for Native American youth and others from all parts of the United States. The Tahlequah-based facility is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s national Job Corps program and one of only four Job Corps facilities located in Oklahoma. In operation through the Cherokee Nation since 1978, the Talking Leaves facility serves approximately 400 students each year.

“Most students who walk through our front doors have come to Talking Leaves with great expectations for securing credentials they need for obtaining the foundations for life-long learning and careers,” said Karl Hussman, center director. “Our center is a 24-hour, 7 day a week operation.”

Marissa Reigh, 16, is presently taking part in the business office technology training at Cherokee Nation’s Talking Leaves Job Corps.
According to Hussman, the mission of Talking Leaves is to provide opportunities for students ages 16 to 24 to earn trade certificates, work keys certificates, high school diplomas, GEDs and driver education licenses and/or certificates. Students are also taught the skills necessary to be successful in the workforce, such as staying on task, career planning, living independently, ethics, appreciating diversity in the workforce, social abilities and effective communication skills.

Currently, TLJC offers vocational instruction in facilities maintenance, health occupations, culinary arts, material handling, electrical wiring and business technologies. From the onset of a participant’s experience at Talking Leaves the staff immediately begins to prepare the student for achievement through its career development system.

“Each student is expected to participate in our integrated support and training program,” said Hussman. “Students perform much of the essential work of keeping the center operational. For instance, culinary students plan, prepare and serve cafeteria meals; electrical and facilities maintenance students obtain maintenance work orders and perform the needed maintenance which keeps our grounds and buildings in excellent condition; business technology students work in our administrative offices performing many types of clerical tasks; nursing students work in our health center assisting our nursing staff and material handling participants perform most of the ordering, receiving and shipping of goods and equipment required to operate the center.”

Students are also required to participate in leadership programs by taking part in one or more of the many clubs or committees sponsored by staff members, such as the Native Voices Club, Safety Committee, Dorm Leaders Committee, Recreation Leaders Committee, Academic Tutors Club and the Student Government Association.

“We try to offer every available opportunity to our students,” said Hussman. “We even offer employment bonuses for excellent performance, such as reading and math gain improvements. We also offer rewards for no absences, continuous progress in a student’s course of studies, dressing for success and getting along with others.”

Marissa Reigh, a 16-year-old Stilwell student, is presently taking part in the business office technology training at Talking Leaves and is thankful for the opportunity to prepare for her future.

“Since I’ve been a student at TLJC, I’ve completed my high school education,” said Reigh. “In a traditional setting I wouldn’t have finished until next year. I’m glad to already be training for a job. I like the preparation. Talking Leaves has put me right out there in the workforce that I will be working in when I complete my training. Everyone here wants you to succeed. This has been a great experience for me. If you are serious about your future, then I would recommend Talking Leaves.”

The national Job Corps program has been training young adults for meaningful careers since 1964. For more information about the TLJC program in Tahlequah, call (918) 456-9959.