Don’t look back

Like many of his fellow students, Robert Perrin said he didn’t really want to be there or get involved when he first started at the Quentin Burdick Job Corps Center last September.

That quickly changed thanks to the influence of instructors. Perrin served in student government and was even the Student Government Association president.

On Friday, Perrin was one of 30 students eligible to graduate from the Job Corps Center.

“I’m 10 times the man I was a year ago and I would never look back,” Perrin told his fellow graduates during his keynote address.

Perrin, who graduated from the carpentry program, said he has done things in the past that he isn’t proud of, but he was proud to receive his diploma. Burdick gives people a chance at a new start in life and to become successful, he told the graduates. He said he has made lifelong friends and memories.

Keynote speaker Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., has earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, but he said he has as much respect for the accomplishments of the students graduating from Job Corps on Friday and for people working in the trades.

“There’s something awesome about doing something with your hands and seeing it done and then seeing other people enjoying it,” said Cramer.

North Dakota is currently in need of students with skills like those of the Job Corps graduates, including welding, carpentry, home health aides, office administration staff and maintenance.

Fellow students whooped and cheered when the graduates went up to receive their diplomas.

Cynthia Henderson, director of programs, paused during the presentation of diplomas to read a letter of congratulations from graduate Zachary Feltman’s mother, who couldn’t be at the event but wanted to tell him how proud she was. Jeannie Harris went up to collect her carpentry diploma, leading her little girl by the hand.

Center director Curtis Shapard said this was the first graduation he has attended since taking over as center director and he was pleased and proud of all the hard work the students had accomplished.

The graduation marked the culmination of a week of celebration of the Burdick Job Corps Center’s 20th anniversary in Minot.