DARBY, Mont. - United States Forest Service Job Corps Centers will finally start accepting new students. Because of federal budget cuts, enrollments at all centers had been suspended since January.
Job Corps is a free education and training program for low-income youth. Montana has 3 centers. Lifting the suspension is good news, but no centers will be running at full capacity.
Trapper Creek Job Corps near Darby has been quiet. Only 150 students are here, down from 224. But in a couple weeks more will come in.
"We're hoping for a minimum of 8 to 10 and upwards of 15 every two weeks," said counseling manager Mike Pepion.
The Department of Labor has approved a total enrollment of 197 students for 2013-14. Not capacity, but better than some expected.
Trapper Creek workers welcome the news. One of 4 dormitories has been closed. Students have been waiting months to get into the program.
Teacher Phil Corbett would normally be teaching 15 students. Now his classes are almost empty.
"I'm a teacher and I need students," said Corbett.
Vacant positions haven't been filled.
Curtis Brickley was the community liaison. His position was phased out last week. He networked with the community. He would pair students with employers in town.
Brickley said Job Corps turns kids around.
"I was living on the streets before I came here," said student Orlin Quintana. "The education programs have helped me a lot."
Despite an increase in numbers, the center is continuing to feel and see the cutbacks. There won't be as many volunteers in the community.
Like fire crews and camp crews, said vocational manager Dan Gager, "projects that we do for the Forest Service and projects for the community."
Meantime, demand for students in the community exceeds the number of students Job Corps can produce at this time.