McAlester News Capital
January 1, 2017
It’s a scene that is becoming more common, graduation ceremonies held inside Oklahoma’s most secure facilities for juvenile offenders. With each ceremony, you find teenagers walking across the gymnasium into a future they never dreamed was possible. Their families and teachers are sitting in the crowd full of pride, and with tears of joy in their eyes; these young men are graduating from the Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School (OYACS).
OYACS was created by SB1902 in 2014, to provide teaching and learning to young men in the care of the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA). Since its inception, 39 young men from both the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC), and the Southwest Juvenile Center (SWOJC) have earned their high school diploma.
“That’s 39 young men who never thought they would earn a diploma. They worked hard and made it a reality. We hope that this is just the beginning for them and they will continue to pursue other educational and career aspirations,” stated Melissa White OYACS Superintendent”.
“I have accomplished many things that I never thought I would in life; I have obtained my high school diploma,” said a recent graduate of Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School. “When I came here I only had 8.5 high school credits, I knew the education staff would not give up on me even if I wanted to give up on myself,” the young man added.
“This is a great time for our charter school, our teachers, and staff who work diligently to ensure our kids finish with a positive moment in their lives, that were once filled with so many negatives. This is a worthy milestone for OJA to close out the year,” said Steven Buck, OJA Executive Director. “I am so thankful our state’s legislative process started us down this unique approach to educating young people facing significant academic deficits.”
Oklahoma is one of only a few states in the nation to operate a school and educational system within juvenile secure facilities; through the OJA sponsored charter school, each student is evaluated, and then provided an individual curriculum based on the student’s needs.
As part of the Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School, OJA has hired 2 principals to oversee each of the two campuses, 19 teachers and 7 teacher aids work closely with the youth in the care of OJA. Students work on computers via Odyssey Ware curriculum to gain credits and complete coursework required for graduation.
OJA partners with local CareerTech campuses to provide course work in areas such as auto- mechanic certification and graphic design coursework.
For more information on the Office of Juvenile Affairs and the Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School, visit our websites at: www.ok.gov/oja or www.oklahomayouthacademy.org