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Job Corps student overcomes health barriers to realize forestry dreams

Man standing in the forest
Job Corps student Chase Waters in Cherokee, North Carolina on February 12, 2019. USDA Forest Service Photo by Birdie Powell.

NORTH CAROLINA—On Feb. 12, 2019, Chase Waters joined Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Cherokee, North Carolina, with one thing in mind: forestry. Chase struggled with kidney issues for most of his life until receiving a kidney from a very special live donor, his mom. On April 21, 2011, Chase underwent a kidney transplant.

“I had to listen to doctors telling me I could not play sports or do other things because of injuring myself,” said Chase. “All that did was fuel my need to prove them all wrong and go after my dreams.”

While training at Oconaluftee Job Corps CCC, students develop leadership skills, communication skills, along with the necessary skills to succeed in their trades.

“My time at Oconaluftee allowed me to regain structure in my life,” said Chase. “It gave me the confidence to do prescribed fires and learn about vegetation management.”

Once completed in his forestry trade at Oconaluftee, Chase went on a four-month detail to the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. Upon his arrival, he dove into everything forestry.

“When I was on my detail, I was able to get a unique view at all the different moving parts and how they work,” said Chase. “I have a new appreciation for all the work it takes to maintain a forest and a state park.”

In August, Chase applied to a park ranger position at Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. He was offered the job in December. His duties include educating thousands of visitors on the importance of natural resources at the park, trail and camp maintenance, removal of exotic species, and treating prescribed burns.

For the park ranger position, Chase not only had to endure a multi-tiered hiring process, but also a rigorous physical fitness test. The time allotted for the physical fitness test is 8 minutes and 30 seconds. Chase finished in 6 minutes and 29 seconds, which landed him the best time out of a group of 45 participants.

In addition to working as a park ranger, Chase attends a summer camp each year to bring hope and encouragement to others who are dealing with kidney failure. “Every day I have to constantly give myself positive daily affirmations, make my health a priority and do whatever I have to so I can live the life I want.” 

For more information on how to hire a career-trained Job Corps student, contact Natural Resources Liaison Cynthia Szymanski at 303-275-5074 or email


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