Vocational Training in Juvenile Detention Center Offers New Lease on Life

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Robison Wells
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This is a bulldozer and forklift simulator. Students using it can earn three different heavy equipment certifications. “The kids, they know, you know, that could be real money, instead of what they’re getting out on the street,” says Earl Gale, one of the instructors at Sojourn High Vocational Lab, inside a juvenile detention center. Gale has been an instructor there for 12 years.

“I live by one rule here: if I can help one student, I’ve done my job.”

The students can not only take real classes, but they earn real course credit, and the new vocational lab allows them to certify in up to three fields. Each certification requires 40 hours of simulator time, but most kids are in the facility for up to six months.

Laurie Newell, Superintendent of Sojourn High School, says she has seen offenders come back to the facility within months, weeks, or even days. “We’re providing them the tools to be able to break that cycle. I think it is their right to an education where they’ll be empowered as citizens.”

To learn more about this, watch the story on PBS.

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