School at detention center arms students with vocational training

Technology like a bulldozer simulator allows students to get certificates in three fields in the construction industry.

The Sojourn High Vocational Technology Lab is the first program of its kind taking place inside a juvenile detention center.

Instructor Earl Gayle has been at the center for 12 years. He says he’s seen students released and then cycle right back into the system within months, weeks or even days. But learning a skill through the new program positions more students to avoid another run in with the law.

Sojourn High School’s principal Rodney Jenkins explains kids are inside the detention center typically for six to seven months. The vocational program requires 40 hours to get a certificate. He says that when he was in high school he was almost sent to this detention center, but an officer stood up for him. He remembers that and stands up for students now.

“School and jail you don’t think about something like this. You think ‘OK, you come to school and go back upstairs.’ But now you’re actually giving them an opportunity to actually learn some type of trade so when they can actually do something with their lives. It’s pretty incredible,” he said.