Gary Job Corps Alumni Reminisce After 18 Years in Successful Careers

Melissa Ajeda preps for another day at work as a critical care technician at the Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos, Texas.

“I love what I do,” she says. “Honestly, I can’t see myself doing anything else in life. I love the medical field, and I’ve been in the medical field since I graduated from Gary.”

Meanwhile, April Mendez starts her workday off by training a staff member at this UPS store.

“These are the size of boxes we’re going to be using today,” she tells one of her staff members.

“I love my employees. I take good care of them. They take good care of me.”

April and Melissa share a few things in common: They both love their job, they both graduated from the Gary Job Corps Center in Texas, and one more tiny thing—they’re sisters!

Melissa and April recently visited their old stomping grounds: the Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas.

As they walked around, the sisters observed, “Wow. They changed it. It’s been a long time since we’ve been here.”

Melissa and April reflected upon the experiences they had as students some 18 years ago.

“A lot of memories,” says Melissa.

Gary Job Corps staff escorted them throughout the center.

“Hi, my name is Brittany Boyd. I’m one of the RAs here.”

“Hi, I’m Melissa.”

“Melissa, nice to meet you. So, when did you guys graduate?

“Back in 2000,” says April.

“That’s fantastic. You guys look successful.”

Melissa and April are successful in their careers and in life—thanks to Job Corps!

April has been the manager of this UPS store in San Antonio for the past five years. She graduated from the Gary center after completing the warehousing program. And while April faced some challenges as a female in a predominately male career—it only motivated her to work harder.

“I’m the type that, you know, you say a woman can’t do it—I’m going to prove to you I can do it. I’m just very strong and confident in myself.”

Melissa graduated as a certified nursing assistant. She later became licensed as a medical assistant and today helps patients recover in the intensive care unit at the Central Texas Medical Center.

“I have a passion for patients. I have a passion for when they’re sick, and my goal is to make them better so that way they’re able to be at home.”

Melissa is now studying to become a cardiovascular invasive specialist.

“My kids are very proud of me—especially at my age going back to school and being a full-time mom. They very much love me.”

Job Corps gave these sisters the springboard they needed to secure a solid future.

“I love my career. I’m a store manager. I love it so much that I would not turn around and think about it twice as far as redoing it again,” says April.

Their mother, who used to work at the Gary center, encouraged them to enroll in Job Corps and learn all they could.

Melissa recalls, “And she told me, she goes, well since you want to be in the medical field, why don’t you come over here and take some classes. And I was like, OK.”

Melissa and April say it was great having mom so close.

“It was pretty exciting,” says April. “I knew if I needed my mom, I knew where to go to look for her. If I needed my sister, I already knew where her trade was at.”

Gary students were happy to see a pair of alumni visiting the center. Samantha, a Gary student, introduced herself to Melissa and April.

“Hi Samantha.”

“Hi, I’m April.” “I’m Melissa. So what are you studying?”

“I’m doing CNA,” says the student.

During their visit, Melissa and April encouraged the young Job Corps students to not give up.

“Don’t ever stop,” says April. “Keep going. Don’t ever let anybody distract you or otherwise that you can’t do it because you can.”

For these sisters, this visit to the center reminded them of the great education and training Job Corps gave them.

“All of the knowledge that I got from Job Corps,” stresses April “made it a lot easier here,” speaking of her job duties as a UPS manager.

Melissa emphasizes the need for Job Corps,

“I think coming back and having Gary as a backbone to start my career, it helped out. The unfortunate students that cannot do it financially on their own, and having a government program for them to allow them to further their education, I think that is amazing. And I think it should continue.”

“Without Gary,” says April, “I don’t think I could have accomplished the majority of it, at least not by myself. Gary Job Corps did it for me. I don’t see why it can’t do it for anybody else.”