Muhlenberg Job Corps Center

MJCC grad, employee knows value of Job Corps

September 9th, 2018

Muhlenberg Job Corps graduate Cristian Mancilla immigrated to the United States from Peru as a child, determined to live the American dream as expressed by his parents. Little did they know they were sending their son to a war zone of gang violence and minority struggle, only to be rescued by a bold decision to take advantage of Job Corps.

Mancilla had already learned the ways of the street in south Florida, and had a steak of unfortunate events that would typically end in a morgue or prison, but he was determined to show his children what the possibilities were. His brother Henry encouraged him to better his life through Job Corps. Mancilla’s first child was born shortly before he made the decision to commit to his education and change the trajectory of his life. In November 2004, Mancilla arrived as a young, undereducated, minority student, with a plethora of disadvantages working against him.

“I was working dead end jobs and had no direction. Staff members of the Muhlenberg Job Corps told me for the first time that I had options!” Said Mancilla.

Mancilla’s brother, Henry, failed to break the cycle of negative behavior and was terminated from the program due to a lack of adjustment. Soon after he returned to Florida, he was murdered in a gang attack.

“If it weren’t for my dedication to the program and the opportunities that Job Corps gave me, I wouldn’t be here today. I would be dead in the street just like my little brother! I think about that every day, and it reminds me that any student that fails in life after Job Corps, has failed themselves, because this program works!” Mancilla attested.

After completing two career training certification programs, serving on the student government, and as a dorm president, Mancilla graduated from the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center in May of 2006.

“I remember speaking with my mentor, Mr. Hollowell who was a residential advisor at the time, and he asked me what I planned to do. I was overwhelmed with choices. I was a certified pharmacy technician, I had management and leadership experience, I was a certified safety and security officer, and I had all of these life experiences that I could now use as a benefit rather than an obstacle.” Mancilla recalled. “I responded by telling him that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to work with disadvantaged youth. Hollowell told me about an advanced training program for residential advisors in Job Corps, so I applied with every intention of coming back to the center that changed my life.”

Mancilla completed advanced training in Massachusetts, and after being out of MJCC for one year as required, he applied and was accepted as a residential advisor. That was more than 12 years ago, and since then, he was promoted to dorm manager, then student personnel assistant, and finally student personnel manager. Mancilla now manages his own staff and is the primary disciplinarian for MJCC’s 343 student capacity center.

“Many go through the Job Corps program, just like in the public school system. If they use the education and training they receive, they succeed”, said Mancilla. “With that being said, it is ultimately up to the individual just as it would be in community college or high school or anywhere else. The difference is, public school can’t give you the life skills training that you receive at Job Corps. This program teaches students to focus on their future, sometimes for the first time in their lives. It works! I have lived it. I have seen students like my brother, and the less extreme, and then I have seen students like myself, in addition to my own experience.”

When asked how he encourages students to be the best they can be, Mancilla said, “I tell every student, my brother had the same opportunities that I had. He ended up losing his life because he chose to stagnate. By the time he realized he needed to make a change, it was too late! That doesn’t always mean death, but it can mean the death of your dreams, goals, and happiness as you perceive it.”

Mancilla plans to retire from the Job Corps program and continue to progress along the way. This was apparent when he was asked why he doesn’t want to consider other lines of work. “These kids need people to care and encourage them, and I have stood where they are standing. They may not have had the troubled past that I did, but they are all at a cross road in their life where making the right choices will be vital to their success, and I always want to be a part of their journey!” Mancilla responded.