Published On: Thu, Feb 2nd, 2012

Oconaluftee Job Corps receives highest USDA Service Award

     The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center recently received one of only twelve 2012 MLK Drum Major for Service Awards from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This award is the highest national service award offered by the USDA and represents a tremendous commitment to improving the lives of others through community engagement. In a famous 1968 speech, Marin Luther King Jr. related “everyone can be great, because everyone can serve”. In western North Carolina this ideal lives strong as Oconaluftee’s youth spent thousands of hours serving in everything from tribal children’s trout fishing with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to on-going natural resource restoration work for the Nantahala National Forest.

From left: Dr. Alma Hobbs, Associate Assistant Secretary for Administration USDA, M.E. Smith and Holly Krake, USDA Forest Service, Oconaluftee JCCCC, North Carolina and Tom Tidwell, Chief, USDA Forest Service. Smith and Krake received the 2012 MLK Drum Major for Service Award at the USDA National Service Day in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Holly Krake)

     “Oconaluftee places great emphasis on service as each and every volunteer hour spent is an integral part of Job Corp’s Work Based Learning program” said Liaison Specialist, Holly Krake. Each student has a goal of 360 hours in the course of their studies- hours directly related to their training, the community, and special projects. Krake continued by adding “In the sprit of the Forest Service mission to care for the land and serve the people, Oconaluftee works hard to instill the mindset of community engagement, personal activism, and social transformation”.

     To these ends, Oconaluftee made a great impact in numerous lives, communities, and counties throughout the past year. In the 2011 calendar year, Oconaluftee students and staff logged over 14,000 hours of volunteer service work across 9 counties, 3 federal agencies, and 30 community partners. Furthermore, in a time of budget constraints and economic woes, these hours equal over $200,000 dollars in donated labor cost to western North Carolina. Projects like riparian buffer trails and campground rehabilitation to fighting food insecurity at food banks, special olympics, national public lands day, and tribal childcare education all highlight Oconaluftee’s dedication to furthering the work of cultural transformation through service. Many of these individual service stories are highlighted with in Oconaluftee’s blog at www.jobcorpsnews.org/oconaluftee

     However, the work of a volunteer is never finished. “While the project may end, the vision never dies- much as Martin Luther King Jr’s vision of cultural transformation continues today” said Center Director, M.E. Smith. “We are so honored to receive this award and will only strive to do more”. At Oconaluftee, thousands of work plan hours have already been developed for 2012 in volunteer service.

     The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina. It is accredited by the Council On Occupational Education and currently serves 104 students.  The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.  The Agency manages over 200 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. For more information about the Oconaluftee JCCCC, visit oconaluftee.jobcorps.gov or jobcorpsnews.org/Oconaluftee

– Oconaluftee JCCC

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