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OPA News Release: [05/10/2012]
Contact Name: Michael Volpe or Elizabeth Todd
Phone Number: (202) 693-4667 or (972) 850-4710
Release Number: 12-0927-NAT

Texas Job Corps students create unique awards designed to honor work and accomplishments of US Department of Labor employees nationwide

WASHINGTON — Unique, handcrafted awards honoring the service and dedication of U.S. Department of Labor employees nationwide have been created by students from the Gary Job Corps Center in San Marcos, Texas, with the first presentation of the awards made today by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis during a ceremony at the department's headquarters in Washington.

The secretary of labor's Honor Awards are the highest level of recognition for employees whose work and accomplishments achieve an outstanding level and demonstrate excellence in promoting the department's mission in all of the goals set by the secretary.

As a tribute to the exceptional efforts of the secretary's honorees, the Gary Job Corps students made medallions out of bare bronze metal, which is prized in metalworking for its performance strength and durability. Display boxes for the medallions were made out of hard pecan and walnut lumber. Each award was completed with a patriotic red, white and blue ribbon. The awards, which were made at no cost to taxpayers, were made as part of a training project and crafted from available materials in workshops. In the case of the display boxes, recycled wood was used, in keeping with the department's "green" environmental initiatives.

The secretary has long been a champion of the department's Job Corps program as an educational and training opportunity for disadvantaged youth, and has turned to its students in the past to produce important departmental awards. These include hand-made mementos produced by Job Corps students in Cleveland, Ohio, that were given by the secretary to foreign finance ministers who attended the 2010 G20 Summit meetings. Students from the Westover Job Corps Center in Massachusetts used coal-like materials in honor of the miners who were killed by the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia to recognize the department's first responders and rescue teams. A Guthrie, Okla., Job Corps student created a unique picture award depicting the beauty of the Gulf Coast, which was given to employees in recognition of their outstanding efforts and service to help those in the Gulf Region impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

"Young people have been hit the hardest in unemployment and that is why the Job Corps program is so vital," Secretary Solis said, adding, "Job Corps is the nation's largest career technical training and education program for young people, and offers hands-on training in more than 100 career technical areas including some of the fastest growing job sectors, such as health care, information technology and renewable energy. Job Corps is a sound investment in preparing our young people to become a well-skilled, productive workforce."

During today's ceremony, Solis presented the awards to dozens of the department's employees in recognition of their outstanding displays of professionalism, teamwork and dedication on various issues ranging from recovering workers' compensation funds and ensuring mine emergency systems compliance to developing a user-friendly Unemployment Insurance portal and implementing jobs clubs for unemployed workers.

The department honored employees from a number of its agencies including the Office of the Solicitor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Employment and Training Administration, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Public Affairs. In future regional ceremonies, employees from the following agencies also will receive medallions: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Wage and Hour Division, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Veterans' Employment and Training Service.

"These awards are a daily reminder that the Department of Labor's employees have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of all Americans through work that is hard, urgent and at times thankless," Secretary Solis said. "Whether it is protecting our workplaces, safeguarding our pensions, or offering educational and training opportunities, the Department of Labor touches the lives of every single American every single day," she said.

About the Gary Job Corps Center and the Secretary of Labor Award Design

Job Corps, administered by the Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration, serves approximately 60,000 young people ages 16 through 24 each year at 125 centers in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Students from Gary's machining, carpentry, and arts and crafts programs came together as a team to design and craft what the award should look like, be composed of and symbolize.

Under the direction of machining instructors Saysamone Manyseng — a 1984 Gary graduate — and Bob Costa, machining students used a power saw to cut a 6-foot-long bare bronze metal bar stock into 50 pieces. Each piece was individually "faced" using both a manual mill and lathe. A computer numerical control, or CNC, milling machine was used to profile and engrave the awards. The slot for the ribbon was cut with a 1/8-inch bit. Each piece was polished to a high-shine finish.

Carpentry students, under the direction of instructors Joe Nazarene and Nelson Beard, created two-piece display boxes for each award, using pecan and walnut lumber that was cut on table and miter saws. After the boxes were sanded to a smooth surface, arts and crafts program students helped line the boxes with felt and attached patriotic red, white and blue ribbons to each. A special video about the making of the awards is available at

Biographies of Gary Job Corps Center Secretary of Labor Award Machining Students

Brittney Manciaz, 20, dropped out of school to work at a fast food restaurant to help support herself and three siblings. She chose Gary's machining program because she likes working with her hands. "Gary has helped me be a stronger person and I'm more comfortable socially than I was before I came," she said. Brittney has earned her General Educational Development certificate and is interviewing for a machinist position at a Houston company.

Yonas Hailu, 24, is a refugee from Asmara, Eritrea, where he said he had no chance for an education. He was an optical technician in his native country so machining was a natural fit for him, and he has excelled at it. He came to America speaking no English and has worked hard to master the language. Yonas is fluent in both Tigrinya and Amharic, and tutors Ethiopian and Eritrean students in English. "I learned everything here at Gary," he said. "I've learned to read and write English, and have a chance for a great career."

Stefan Storck, 22, is a graduate of the North Texas Job Corps Center. He came to Gary to learn the machining trade and is proud of his role on the design team: "This was a great project and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to get selected to work on these." Stefan has been accepted at Texas State Technical College in Waco to advance his machining skills.

Christopher Aguilar, 22, from Houston, has worked for several years as an auto mechanic but was out of work for three months before turning to Gary for a new direction. Chris arrived with his high school diploma so he went into trade training full-time and is almost finished. "You've just got to keep your mind focused and do what you need to do," said Chris. He wants to pursue a career in machining.

Amer Abdullah, 20, came to America after fleeing a refugee camp in the Sudan that was attacked during that country's civil war. In his 15 months at Gary, he has learned English and earned his high school diploma. Amer plans to stay in the machining industry.

Armando Diaz, 21, from Houston, had worked in packaging and shipping at an oil drilling company before deciding to enroll in Job Corps. He wanted to learn machining because he had taken high school courses in CAD and manual drafting and felt this was a perfect extension of his interests. "I learned to wake up early and work a full day," he said. Armando plans to work as a machinist while earning a college degree in mathematics, his other passion.

Biographies of Gary Job Corps Center Secretary of Labor Award Carpentry Students

Jeremy Johnson, 23, previously worked odd construction jobs in Austin. "I heard about Job Corps for years, but never really thought it was an option for me until I got close to graduation," he said. He now feels he made the right decision and wants to go to college to study the business side of the construction industry.

Patrick Kist, 18, from Washington state, said, "I always loved building stuff and realized this would get me further along my life path." He is nearing completion of his carpentry training and is interested in joining the military upon graduation.

LeMichael Wooten, 19, earned her diploma in Houston before coming to Gary. She said, "I love carpentry and I've learned all the fundamentals. This is a great place to go to achieve something in life."

Tammycia Anderson, 17, said is working to complete her high school diploma. "I came to Gary to better myself," she said, adding, "I also like the idea of helping people, so this is my dream."

Abraham Espinoza, 19, worked low-wage jobs at a hotel in Houston before deciding to take the leap into his future by joining Gary. "I always wanted to learn to build homes and Gary has helped me improve my leadership as well as my carpentry skills." Abraham plans to pursue a college degree in architecture while working as a carpenter.

Biographies of Gary Job Corps Center Secretary of Labor Award Arts and Crafts Students

Ashley Macias, 19, is in the medical office administration program, and earned a GED certificate within her first month of enrolling at Gary. "I'm doing great," she said. "I'm 50 percent complete with my trade and will be going to college after graduation."

Suzana Torrez, 19, is in the Office Administration trade program at Gary. "I've accomplished more by being here than if I had chosen not to attend. I appreciate everything," she said. Suzana, who has earned her GED certificate, also excels in math.