MOSES LAKE — It was a Thursday like so many others.
On the third Thursday of every month, a handful of young people graduate from Columbia Basin Job Corps. Actually, it’s a ceremony held at each of the Job Corps’ 131 centers nationwide.
But every person who puts on that gray robe and gets their diploma is different. They have their own stories to tell. Like 18-year-old Shelby Barnett, one of the Moses Lake center’s seven most recent graduates.
“I loved it here,” she said rather nervously before the ceremony began. “I was skeptical when I first got here, but staff helped a lot.”
Barnett, who hails from Poulsbo on the West Side, started at Job Corps a little bit more than a year ago, looking not just for an education, but a way to improve herself.
“I was shy,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot.”
Though she seems a little uneasy with being the center of so much attention — she was one of two graduates who spoke and received one of the center’s awards — you wouldn’t know Barnett had arrived at the Columbia Basin Job Corps as shy and awkward teen in the summer of 2017.
“She was always trying to be positive,” said Karl Lester, the director of the Columbia Basin Job Corps, who described Barnett as someone who was driven, who listened and who “changed her heart.”
“She taught us — believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself, you can change,” Lester said.
Barnett started out in the nursing program, but after a few months, decided that the center’s business administration program was a better fit. According to Lester, she “flourished” once she made the change.
Lester also noted that Barnett seemed to have only one pair of shoes — black Converse high tops — that she wore with everything.
“I asked her once, ‘You have a pair of dress shoes?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, they’re right here,’” Lester said.
Sitting among the graduates, Barnett then showed off her shoes.
“I am extremely proud of her,” said Barnett’s father Gary, himself a graduate of Job Crops. “She graduated high school, and now Job Corps, and hopefully college next.”
“It was a good decision,” said Bennett’s mother Jeannie. “I was a little scared to send off to college, this was kind of a half-step. I am looking forward to her coming back home.”
“I’m really surprised at how many people don’t know what Job Corps is,” Jeannie continued. “They’re like, ‘Is she in trouble?’ No, it’s an awesome program.”
Geoffry Paul, Barnett’s 18-year-old boyfriend whom she described as “the love of her life,” said he would frequently call her and encourage her in her studies.
“She’d call and cry, and I’d tell her, ‘You got this,’” he said. “I kept pushing her.”
And it paid off. Barnett will start a part-time job as a receptionist with Edward Jones Investments in Poulsbo and continue her studies at Olympic College this fall.
But she will always remember her time at the Columbia Basin Job Corps.
“I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I love it here.”