Cherokee Nation’s Talking Leaves Job Corps Commemorates Anniversary Milestone

Guest Commentary

Published October 29, 2018

Cherokee Nation’s Talking Leaves Job Corps Center recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. The center originally opened its doors in October of 1978 in Northeastern State University’s Loeser Hall. As the enrollment grew and the need for dorm space increased, TLJC moved in 1988 into the former Cherokee Nation Motor Lodge. In 1994, the center moved into its current facility, located on 22 acres just south of the Cherokee Nation complex in Tahlequah.

Over the years, thousands of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 have come through the doors, enrolled for classes and training, and been positively influenced. Most who enroll choose to live on campus in the residential living program, which features dorms, daily meals, a gymnasium, a theater and a game room.

Enrollment is free to those with qualifying income. Currently, we have about 200 students enrolled. They are required to attend TLJC for at least eight months and can attend for up to two years.

The Talking Leaves Jobs Corps Center offers unique opportunities and a chance to not only earn educational degrees but also hone career skills. In addition to a state-accredited high school diploma curriculum and high school equivalency program, TLJC offers career technical training programs in six fields: clinical medical assistant, culinary arts, electrical wiring, facilities maintenance, nurse assistant/home health aide and office administration. Students typically graduate from the program with industry-recognized credentials that are essential in securing a job. All of the training programs are hands-on, and enrollees learn skills for real-work environments.

These opportunities are free to the participants, as Cherokee Nation administers the endeavor through a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor. There are 125 Job Corps centers across the United States, and ours is one of the only ones connected to a tribal government. We consistently rank in the top 50 percent of centers nationwide.

Chief Bill John Baker

For four decades, the Talking Leaves Job Corps has made a profound difference in the lives of people in northeast Oklahoma. Helping individuals pursue an education and eventually a long-term career is an important part of creating healthy families and communities.

For me personally, it is an important effort, as my father, Tim Baker, helped secure the original federal funding grant that launched TLJC in 1978. I am so proud of our staff for the work and commitment they put forth day in and day out as we prepare another generation for success, not just in the workplace, but in all aspects of life.

Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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