Seventeen-year-old Gus Lopez was working on a San Pedro, Calif., harbor cruise boat when he overheard his captain talking to another seaman about the free education and training opportunity that Job Corps offers to young people.
Intrigued, Lopez approached the captain later to ask about Job Corps. The captain said that the Seamanship career training program at the Tongue Point Job Corps Center in Astoria, Ore., would allow Lopez to see different places.
That was enough motivation for Lopez, who packed up and moved approximately 1,000 miles from his hometown of Long Beach, Calif., to Astoria in August 1995 to join the Seamanship program as well as earn his GED certificate.
“It was tough being away from home and moving to a smaller city, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Lopez said. “Captain Jack Newbold made good sailors out of all of us.”
Newbold was one of the Seamanship program’s captains. Lopez credits Newbold and the program for teaching him life skills such as being responsible and learning how to work with people from all walks of life.
Something else he learned at Job Corps was the different ways to tie knots – a skill that is the foundation of his new side business, Knotical Art.
Lopez, who graduated in May 1997, currently works three days a week as a first mate on an ocean-going tugboat based out of Long Beach. The other 4 days are devoted to his business.
He creates and sells a variety of rope art − such as bracelets, key chains and dog leashes − online. He also has a booth every weekend at Crafted, a large craft marketplace at the Port of Los Angeles that is open year-round.
Although he only launched Knotical Art about a year ago, Lopez said that the idea “was in my mind ever since I graduated from Tongue Point.”
The two most important things that Job Corps provided, he said, are the “skills that I currently use in my business, and my education.”
Editor’s note: Job Corps is now accepting new student applications at 125 centers across the country. Learn about the program here.
Brian Daher is the regional director for the Office of Job Corps in San Francisco, which is part of the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration.