Sunday, February 29, 2004

Wendy Speaks....

I drove to northern Maine and snatched Heather away from Job Corps. What I saw there was worse than my wildest imagination scenarios. I must have told Heather a hundred times that I was amazed she had stayed and stuck it out. I was proud of her for trying to make the best of a bad situation!!!!

I got to Heather's dorm at 9:30 pm. I went to the security office and the guy got on his walkie talkie and asked the RA to bring down "HM". When Heather got in the office, I hugged and kissed her good ;-) Then we went up to her room. I was extra wimpy after the long ride and was leaning heavily on my cane. They let me go up the elevator.

Keep in mind that this school is on the old Loring Air Force Base. The dorm was made of cement blocks and the hallways must have been constructed narrowly to double as bunkers in case of attack. Certainly two of me could not fit down the hall side by side ;-) It was creepy!

The hallways were full of aimless youth who looked bored out of their skulls. I could see why they were roaming the halls after seeing their tiny rooms. There's not much space to just BE and relax. Some kids were flopped in a darkened TV room, some were around the only computer. It was not internet capable and could only be used to play mindless games. I started feeling trapped and institutionalized right away.

With the door to Heather and her roommate Sarah's room closed, very little sound was cut off. It was like living in an airport flight path....the rumbles, yells and rollerblading kids was non-stop. Even by 11 pm, the noise was LOUD!

I went out to the parking lot and slept in my van. Temps were around zero with a 25 mph wind. Can you say brrrrrrrrrrrrrr?? Luckily I had Zeke dog to cuddle up with, but he was only good for one side! I put on 2 fleece jackets, a hood and sweat pants and slept relatively well until Heather bounced in to the van after breakfast. I was very brave. I got out of the warm bed and put on clean clothes.

I asked Heather if I could come to class with her and she got permission. Then she realized it was the day of her 60 day luncheon and got permission for me to go to that, too. I enjoyed the part of the day that was truly class. A ranger came in to finish up his week long class on wildland fire supression. Since I went to college for forestry, it was all very interesting to me. I thought he was a great speaker with some interesting tapes and presentations. Afterwards, the kids practiced getting under fire shelters.

The dismaying parts of the day were "class". Kids need to be in their assigned rooms at 8 am. Once they get there, anything goes. They pretty much sit around and talk, fool around, look at catalogs and nap. This is exactly how Heather had been describing it for weeks. I had hoped she was exagerating ;-)

No guidance, no "teaching", nothing at all motivating, educational or inspiring. That was contrasted by the gear room!!! That place was amazing! Closets full and piles of fantastic gear for skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, camping, backpacking, etc. I was drooling ;-p Too bad they hardly use the stuff! That would be the highlight and crowning glory of this program. Bummer ;-(

At lunch we got pizza and chicken wings. I had seafood pizza which was pretty good ;-) A bunch of "officials" stood up and addressed the half dozen kids who made it to their 60 day luncheon. I was mostly appalled and disturbed by what they had to say. From my point of view, they were intent on churning out nice little consumers who would go on to earn and spend money, but not necessarily have good or rewarding lives. Sigh........ When it was Heather's turn to get her award and speak, she was disgusted, so just said she had already built her own house and was making $22 an hour when she went in there. Snicker....snicker...snicker.....

So....enough about Job Corps. I hope that's it. Heather tried getting a leave of absence or time off for a job and that didn't work out. She just left.

As fate would have it, I got a phone call while in Maine that my mom is in the hospital, awaiting open heart surgery. That was totally unexpected! She is scheduled for a triple by-pass. We may or may not try to get to Arizona to see her. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Job Corps Blues.....

It's amazing how many emails a day I get about Heather's Job Corps experiences! Seems people have plenty of opinions. If you have some opinions you just need to get off your chest, write to me at

One interesting reaction I get is to Job Corp's mission to serve "at risk" youth. Here's what their web page says.....

Job Corps is the nation's largest and most comprehensive residential, education and job training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 through 24. Since its inauguration in 1964, under the Economic Opportunity Act, Job Corps has provided more than 2 million disadvantaged young people with the integrated academic, vocational, and social skills training they need to gain independence and get quality, long-term jobs or further their education.

Read that? ECONOMIC opportunity. I get $600/month disability because I have myasthenia gravis and lupus. That puts us squarely under the umbrella of "at risk". I don't have any money. I could not send Heather to college. Ideally a school like this is a great place for a kid like mine to go.

They say the students can work at their own pace. Heather finished up her level A paperwork very quickly. She also did it all for the NEXT level and handed it in. The level A teacher has been putting off one or two hours worth of clinics for weeks. As soon as the teacher lets Heather do this, she can progress to the next level. I'm wondering now if there is some sort of financial reason for the Job Corps or the teacher to hold her back?

I'm waiting one more week and then I'm getting mean. I've repeatedly written letters to the center director. I know he reads them as Heather has talked to him. He hasn't written back to me, though.

Just as when I had a foreign exchange student at our house and needed help with INS and the time I applied for disability, the best way to get help is to talk to congressmen. I guess that's my next step with Job Corps.

Hopefully they will let Heather finish level A next week. Otherwise I call in the cavalry. Government is supposed to serve ***US***.

The good news is that Heather got such good evaluations that she skipped over a step and is now in "silver phase". I think that means she gets a $50 bonus, a water bottle and a later bedtime ;-)

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Heather is funny on the phone ;-)

Tonight I talked to Heather. I continue to torture her by telling her each gourmet delight that I cook. She holds the phone away from her ear, chants and makes rude noises to block it out. She then goes on to tell me what she ate. Tonight it was 10 year old canned ravioli scraped from the bottom of a rusty can ;-) I bet it wasn't *that* bad ;-) Snicker....snicker.....

Heather thinks for certifications, they should add millionaire. Ski patrol has never been offered, yet they hold out the possibility by putting it under certifications. The way you go about getting it is to work at the local ski area and hope they train you. It has nothing to do with Job Corps. why should you go to school there to begin with???

As for Millionaire, Heather says that theoretically she could go on to become one, so it should be listed as a possibility ;-)

I went through the list of certifications, searched online and wrote to some local groups. She can get them easier here at home. I sent her a bazillion links to cool outdoor jobs and internships right here in Vermont.

Heather could come home, live in her own house and do her she was all along at her unschool university ;-)

While I was talking to Heather, the RA walked by. Heather needed things from his work slips and scissors. She's 20 years old, is not allowed to use a knife or scissors!!! They have to be borrowed from the RA....and used under supervision. Whoa..... I hope it's not so dangerous there that a berserk kid might suddenly grab them and go on a rampage! This is school....not reform school or jail.

I'm worried about my kid!!!!! She sounds more confused and brain dead every day. Is it the food? The rules? The mind-numbing mediocrity?

Today Heather looked through the yellow pages and decided to try the Unitarian church. I think it was a good choice and cheered her up. My favorite is always the coffee HOUR afterwards ;-)

So....please think good thoughts and send Heather some energy. This week she learns about Wildland fires and tries to deal with the administration about her continuing frustrations and issues.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

What is REALLY offered??????

Oh, oh.....Heather is pretty darn upset again. The certifications offered by Job Corps were the #1 reason for her to go there. Now she has found out that they don't really offer what they say and for the ones you CAN take, most you have to pay for. Here's something copied directly from The Loring Job Corps web site.......

Recreation Certifications & Trainings Offered:


















Heather pinned down an OR teacher to discover some of these have NEVER been offered and some are offered no longer. The training and certification page seems to be a big sham.

Is Heather upset???? BIG TIME!!!!

We just talked more than an hour. Heather is back to feeling like she is wasting her time. This next week she does Wildland Fire and is looking forward to that. When that's done, there's not much offered until kayak season. This is a huge bummer!

Is it legal to advertise courses that aren't even offered? Now the question we become rabble rousers and make things happen? Or give up Job Corps and find a better way to do this?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The reality of Job Corps

Some folks have written to ask me what it's like. Maybe Heather can add to this.

Every time you go off center and come back, your bags are checked and purchases looked through. There are many things you are not allowed to have or buy. Each day there is room inspection. Your bed needs to be made and room clean. You have a big locker and must keep anything of value in it and locked away. From early morning to 4 pm, you are locked out of your room. You had better remember to take it all with you.

Sometimes trips are scheduled, but the kids don't know what kind of trip. If you go prepared for skiing and it's a snowshoe trip.....tough can't get back in your room for the snowshoes.

Yup....the food is free if you go to the cafeteria. Too bad they aren't fond of fresh fruits and vegetables ;-( You had better think tater tots are gourmet fare.

To use a phone, you have to be able to catch an RA on duty and not busy. You make the call in their room among noise, kids going in and out, etc....

Want to go off center? You have to sign out. If you want to spend the weekend away you need to arrange permission ahead of time.

Sometimes this all seems worth it to go to school "free".....sometimes free seems expensive in other ways.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Heather's mom speaks again.....

We were pretty disgusted with Job Corps, but there may still be some hope. Heather had a talk with the center director today to express some of her concerns and frustrations. Perhaps it made a difference. We will see.

I have been deluged by people telling me that Heather does not belong at Job Corps and I should yank her out. We will see.

The advantages of school trips, snowboarding, roller blading, ice skating, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, etc.... There are also supposed to be a bunch of certifications available such as firefighter, Maine guide, EMT, etc.....

The disadvantages of this school include.....prison-like atmosphere, crummy food, restrictive rules, very little computer access, broken telephones, lack of communication, way too much status quo instead of innovation, etc....

I think some of the teachers and others could benefit by learning to be motivated and upbeat. Some are snoring along, providing very little initiative or leadership.

Ugh.....all the reasons Heather was unschooled to begin with. If she had made her snowshoes, kayak or built her house under this system, she wouldn't even have started yet. Forget about having it all done by 18 years old!!!! Stifle, stifle, stifle......

It's tough being a long-distance mother. I wish I could SEE Heather to interpret her body language and eyes. All I can do from here is guess. Heather is sooooo frustrated, but has a beam of hope that things will progress and get better. We will see.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Fun at school

Weeeeeeeeee!! School is fun :-)

I've been downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and rollerblading within the past week. All of them are related to my vocation and some of them are requirements. Today they had to cancel the cross country skiing unfortunately. There's always next week though!

I'm learning to be a good little suck up. I just learned that although I was only on wing 10 (the newbie wing) for 8 days, I was the student of the month. I have a certificate coming to me for that one. :-)

I've been getting perfect room scores evepretty much every day. If I keep it up, I could get room of the month for wing 9. I then get a certificate and a little perk gift. This place is very into incentives. As soon as I complete level A, I get a few more perks, including a Rec Works water bottle.

I'm trying to be extra extra good, so I can skip blue phase and go directly to silver phase when my teachers evaluate me in a week or so. Silver phase allows me to have a later bedtime and a few other perks. I'm gunning for silver phase so I can start my application rolling for the onsite apartments. You have to be on silver before you can apply. Once into the apartments, I'd have my own computer with internet access in my room. As it is now, I only have access to computers during certian portions of the school day.

Being in the apartments has other perks, such as being able to cook your own food. The food down at the cafeteria is kinda gross. Not only is it institutional food, but it's federal government food. Who knows what they do to it back behind the kitchen walls...

Time to get back to school work. :-)