|Photo by: LisaRedfern via Pixabay|
It’s the middle of the summer and school is in session at the Northern Kentucky Youth Development Center, a secure detention center for incarcerated teenagers who have made a bad decision along the way.
The center houses close to 40 boys who attend school for six hours each day and focus on specialized learning; facets of information technology like robotics and masonry, copper cabling, home audio repair, and computer networking. The facility is the only place in the state of Kentucky providing kids the opportunity to learn these trades and get certified for the job market.
The kids are also taught how to apply for jobs, dress for an interview, and carry on proper conversations in an adult manner.
Dave Gideon, rehab and IT instructor, says, "We are teaching them something at this point that nobody else is teaching them.” He adds “There’s nobody out there that's doing this. We're actually finding the kids that can build a fiber-optic cable and splice a fiber-optic cable in case a storm comes and it gets ripped in half. Cincinnati Bell told me they cannot find applicants to do this."
Kenyon County Schools spokeswoman Jess Dykes said of Gideon: “[He’s a] unique and somewhat unorthodox teacher who is willing to step out of the box to bring meaningful educational opportunities to the incarcerated youth he serves.”
Dykes also said via a news release that “the courses are designed to provide focus on one particular skill, and the students combine these stackable certificates to give them a toolbox of skills that will allow them to pursue a career in Information Technology.” She further explained, “Even if a student completes only one course they still receive that certificate and their name goes into a national database that can be accessed by potential employers.”
The biggest road block to success for the students, according to Gideon, is the type of environment they return to when they are released.
Braden, a 15-year-old student who's been at the center for a year and a half has earned certifications in three disciplines so far, one of which could possibly get him a job at Cincinnati Bell working in copper cabling and fiber optics.
Braden is the first African-American student to earn three certifications in all of Kentucky, and home audio is next up on his list.
He said, "I want to get as many credits as I can here, but also don't want to complete my high school here because I've always wanted to walk across the stage because I saw both my sisters do it.”