By Megan Davis
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Jerrell Lester realized he was making the right choice for himself when he was greeted with acceptance at Jane Addams Resource Corp.
“When you get here, everybody here has their arms open,” Lester said. “They’re just willing to embrace you in any walk of life and groom you to the point where you can be self-sufficient and rely on yourself.”
Lester is one of many trainees at Jane Addams Resource Corp., or JARC, who had a difficult time growing up in Baltimore. He wanted to make a difference in his life so that he can make a sustainable living for himself and his family. Luckily, JARC was there to help.
JARC is a training facility that educates Baltimore residents on welding and computer numerical controls for metal drilling so that they can take a job in the manufacturing workplace. The program began in Baltimore in 2015, but JARC was originally founded in Chicago in 1985.
With nine people on staff and two on management, JARC is able to establish personal connections to their trainees through 12 weeks of free training and classes. Their main goal is that people who work should not live in poverty.
“It’s a place for people to come who have not had a lot of opportunity,” said Elaine Carroll, the site director at JARC.
Most trainees who come to JARC have struggled in some way and want to be able to rebuild their lives, Carroll said. The program, however, can be rigorous and require moments of reflection.
“You’re not used to certain things happening in your life if you’re trying to do the right thing,” said Michael Spencer, a certified welder at JARC.
Michael Spencer received his welder certificate after he completed the welding program at JARC. He explains that though the training could sometimes be difficult, especially with life struggles, JARC was always there.
“It’s like sometimes the bad stuff will come back but you really got to fight that,” Spencer said. “If you’re not really used to it or if you don’t have the right people in your corner then you’re going to fail, but JARC has put me in a position to win.”
JARC understands that the process is difficult for their trainees, but they want to show that it is not impossible to succeed.
“I can relate to my trainees because I’ve overcome some obstacles myself, but it doesn’t define who you are,” said Darnell Hunter, the welding instructor at JARC. Hunter, like many others in the program he teaches, comes from Baltimore.
Hunter became an instructor at JARC because wants to bring change within his own community. He prepares his trainees for the future by making the training experience as similar as possible to the real business world.
“I run my shop as a shop, as a job,” Hunter said.
Trainees arrive at JARC around 8:30 in the morning and are ready at 9 a.m. This follows the average nine to five life that many jobholders follow. Once ready, trainees go to work in JARC’s training room.
The training room is filled with multiple computer numerical control machines so trainees can practice coding to create metal slabs with specific shapes and holes for machinery. There is also a separate room for welding, where trainees wear protective face gear to avoid getting burned as they melt and shape metal to Hunter’s preferences.
Hunter is proud of the trainees he works with and wants them to be successful. He makes sure their past doesn’t distract them from the present they can achieve.
“I have some really solid guys that are dedicated and have overcome some obstacles,” Hunter said. “I don’t allow them to use that as an excuse.”
JARC officials are proud of the change it is able to implement in people’s lives, and the trainees are even prouder of themselves and what they can achieve.
“The first day when I really came to the conclusion that I really like [computer numerical controls] and this is going to be a career path for me was when I completed my first project,” Lester said. “The fact that I did it from beginning to end by myself…was an unbelievable experience.”
Lester is now aiming to become fully certified in computer numerical controls through JARC. He is thankful for the training he is receiving through JARC, and for the trainers that help every day.
“The teachers here are excellent teachers,” Lester said. “They really bring their arms around you and bring you in, no matter where you fall on the totem pole and they just try to bring you up and allow you to be your best self.”