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My name is Laura Way Wathen, MSW. I am a registered voter in the state of Montana. I have lived, worked, raised my family, and voted here since 1995.

It has come to my attention that the Anaconda Job Corps is designated to be closed by early fall and that Trapper Creek Job Corps is slated to be transferred.

I am a graduate of the master’s in social work program of the University of Montana. I have been serving the student population of Trapper Creek Job Corps as a counseling intern since January of 2018—first as an intern and as a volunteer since July of 2018.

Often when working with our students, I think of their future families and the high stakes of the work we do at Trapper Creek Job Corps — not because I think they lack the capacity to be good parents, but rather because I am aware of the generational impacts that low socioeconomic status (SES) has on individuals and society. I expand my vision to the next generation and the impact Trapper Creek Job Corps can have on our students lives and those of their future families by giving them the tools they need to break the cycle of poverty and low SES. I know what the data clearly shows — those with low SES experience significantly higher rates of violence, greater health disparities, higher prevalence of mental health disorders, higher rates of homelessness, substance abuse and toxic stress related to poverty. Without intervention these can have impacts throughout the life course and with great individual and societal cost — both in terms of loss of human potential and economic costs.

Trapper Creek Job Corps provides the job skills training, access to education, and access to social and emotional supports and skills that are essential to breaking free from the devastating and generational consequences of poverty, hopelessness, and despair. In short, (and this is not hyperbole), Trapper Creek Job Corps saves lives and has an incalculable, positive impact on society.

On a very practical level, as part of the mission of the CCC, our students engage in meaningful community service. For example, in fire suppression and support, in the year 2018 alone, our students engaged in over 60,000 hours of volunteer work. Halting the important community service work of Trapper Creek Job Corps will have far reaching consequences well beyond our local communities.

It is not possible to express my dismay at the myopic vision of the department of agriculture’s decision to irreparably alter a successful program such as Trapper Creek Job Corps. Here we have a case of the government breaking something that is not broken. This is what my mom would have referred to as “not even a good, bad plan.” This non-plan is not even short-sighted and bears no resemblance to the original vision of Job Corps. The loss of 55 hardworking, dedicated individuals and their families in our communities will have consequences. The abandonment of hundreds of youth with no plan forward will have consequences.

This poorly executed, non-plan is vacuous of leadership and is devoid of compassion and is lacking in a basic understanding of the economic and social impact of unmitigated low SES on individuals and society. The outright closure of the Anaconda Job Corps seems far less duplicitous (though still devastating for that community and with the same far reaching impacts) than what will be the drawn-out demise of the Trapper Creek Job Corps. We cannot lose all our quality federal employees and students and remain anything other than a collection of buildings. The heart and soul of Trapper Creek Job Corps is people.

One of the values Montanans hold dear is neighbors helping neighbors. Trapper Creek Job Corps has been a good neighbor. Now I am asking you to lend your support to Job Corps in general, and Trapper Creek Job Corps and Anaconda Job Corps in particular, by emailing and calling our representatives and ask them to do the following:

1. Support 2020 Senate language prohibiting DOL from arbitrarily reducing CCC funding.

2. Close the WIOA loophole that allows the USDA Secretary to arbitrarily close Centers regardless of how well they are performing.

3. Enhance transparency and accountability with direct funding to the U.S. Forest Service to operate the CCC program.

Sincerely, Laura Way Wathen