About 300,000 American youths have passed through the Job Corps since it was created as part of the Enonomic Opportunity Act of 1964. The Department of Labor estimates that about 10,000 of those alumni now live in the meteopolitan Washington area.
One of them is Eugene Dugger, 33, who believes he was one of the first Washington-area youths to enroll in the Job Corps.
Today Dugger is the father of seven children, a partner in a trucking business and the first president of the Washington-area chapter of the Job Corps alumni association. Founded just a few weeks ago, the local chapter has more than 100 members.
But in 1964, Eugene Dugger was in trouble.
"I was kicked out of Langley Junior High School. My girlfriend was pregnant. I was just turning 16. I heard about the Job Corps and it was like an answer to my prayers."
Early in 1965, Dugger joined the Job Corps and was sent to Camp Kilmer in Edison, N.J.
After 10 months, Dugger was dismissed from the corps and came back to the District. But he cites the program as a reason for his later success. "I got throwed out for fighting, not because I didn't like the Job Corps," said Dugger. "I had a lot of tensions on me and fighting was a way of releasing those tensions."
For a few years he drifted from job to job, he said.
In 1967, he was involved in an ill-fated attempt to start an independent Washington-area Job Corps alumni group. (The group never really got off the ground, however, and the alumni idea lay dormant until Department of Labor funding revived it -- on a national basis -- last year.)
Speaking of that period, Dugger said, "I'm not proud of it. I got involved with narcotics, with reefer smoking every hour of the day. I went into cocaine. I occasionally used heroin." By 1970, he said, he had been shot three times in disputes over drugs, the last time in the stomach.
But in the mid-1970s, Dugger said, "I cut loose. I had a spiritual experience." His luck and his life changed. He is now an associate minister at the Revival Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church in Southeast Washington. Emmanuel's Trucking Inc., founded in 1977 and named after Dugger's only son, proved a success. He and his partner have three employes, two dumptrucks, a tractor-trailer and a newly leased warehouse.
"I put my business together and groove on my own family," said Dugger. "I have my one lady." He and his wife, Donzella Dugger, were married 16 years ago when he returned from the Jobs Corps. They have one son and six daughters.
Even though he spent only 10 months in the Job Corps, Dugger feels he would not have succeeded without it. "When a man doesn't have hope, he becomes nothing. The Job Corps makes you believe they've equipped you. When you get out, you find you aren't equipped, but you've learned to believe in yourself."
Asked about his old friends who did not join the Job Corps, Dugger responded: "Most of the kids I went to school with are dead. Or strung out on drugs or down in Lorton. Very few kids make it."