During his visit, Perez toured the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center close to Stateline Road. He spoke with students, educators, and local leaders about their experience with the program, which gives free education and training to young people to learn a skill, get a GED, or find a job.
After the tour, he gave a speech that was less about posturing on policy than it was a rousing sermon to inspire the students in the room.
“Every single person in this room — every single person who comes through a Job Corps center — is gifted and talented,” Perez said. “It is up to us to draw out those gifts and talents.”
Perez spoke of learning from bad days and of second chances, telling the students that his boss, President Barack Obama, “got his butt kicked” in his first run for Congress.
The Hooks Center in Memphis is one of Job Corps’ highest performing centers in terms of job placement, and other metrics, according to Perez.