The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center receives $30,000 grant from International Paper

From left are student Torroneisha; Doris Valencia; Volunteer Coordinator VISTA Volunteer; Chef Josh Hippler; Claire Prymus, President & Founder; Kelly Trumbo, International Paper Representative; Bridget Gustafson, Garden & Nutrition Coordinator VISTA Volunteer; student Emily; and Carlos Camargo-Patron, Brand Ambassador

The Ben D. Johnson Educational Center, (BDJ Center) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit received a $30,000 grant from International Paper. The BDJ Center is a pillar in the west Natchitoches community that provides young adults with a path out of poverty. Funds will be used for the Legacy Youth Workforce Development, which supports young people ages 17-24 who are out of work and out of school by providing career development, life and leadership skills, and culinary training with support to overcome barriers to employment. Specifically, this grant will be used to create a learning lab in the Legacy garden, provide technology and software to enrich student’s educational/ distant learning, purchase COVID related supplies for students and provide scholarships for students who need and want the training, but may not qualify for federal funding. The BDJ Center is asking for community support to help get the word out about this training opportunity. Students receive a stipend in the amount of $25 a day while training and receive two meals daily.

“The most valuable things I have learned while being in the program are professionalism, communication, and so many life skills,” said Brittney Hamilton, a graduate of the Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program. “It was tough to find a job without work experience or hands-on training, but now that I have those things, it really is a game changer. Now I have references, training, as well as my ServSafe Certification which has helped me out a lot in finding a job.”

Kelly Trumbo, International Paper Red River Mill Communications Coordinator, “at International Paper, we believe our company cannot succeed if our communities do not succeed. We are proud to support the Ben D. Johnson Educational Center’s Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program as they strive to address the community needs in the Natchitoches area.”

The BDJ Center is currently recruiting students for their next class, which starts Feb. 1. To learn more about the center and the Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program, visit or call (318) 460-7460. Visit their Facebook page at