The Reaction to the Closing of the Job Corps
"There will always be prejudice as long as people are not willing to go out and seek the truth."
— Azilee Thomas (Corps woman)
In 1964 the Job Corps program was created through the Economic Opportunity Act. Northern Michigan University was picked to house the first Job Corps Center for Women in Michigan. $2,875,000 was granted to NMU for the construction and maintenance of the center. The center was designed to teach trades to disadvantaged women. These trades included retail sales, tailoring, clerk typists, IBM key punch, as well as general education.
By 1969, 225 woman were enrolled in the center. Like many of the centers around the United States, the Job Corps at NMU predominately consisted of African Americans. Many of the women at the center were from poor working-class families from big cities such as Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. Like many of the women before them, they worked hard to learn trades and for some even finish their high school education. The center had a very high employment rate for women after graduation. The success of the center, as well as the success of the program on the national scale, made the announcement of the closing of 65 centers by Nixon's Administration difficult to comprehend for some; NMU's center was included in the list of centers to be closed.
The announcement of the program's funding being cut had many racial overtones to it. Many believed that if the program was directed more to white citizens, it would not have been cut from the budget. In response to the announcement, the job corps at NMU sent representatives to Washington D.C. Although they returned from Washington with high hopes, the center was ultimately closed. The center afforded opportunities to women who would otherwise not have had the resources to learn the skills that many women used to provide for their families. Still others, mainly the YAF (Young Americans for Freedom), could not see beyond the racial barriers and denounced the program without properly educating themselves.