A new school year starts for the students at the Juvenile Services Center

 A student working at their desk.
A student working at their desk. (KOTA)
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 3:30 PM CST
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Textbooks, homework, and hardworking students. It sounds like a classroom you would see in a typical school, but these students aren't at a traditional school. They are at the Juvenile Services Center where Joe Guttierez is the Commander of the center.

"We offer fifty hours of programming at the Juvenile Services Center and education is our number one program that we offer for our juveniles," said Guttierez.

The students at JSC take a different approach to education which goes through Nicole Swigart who is the Title 1 D Principal.

"Classrooms at JSC are really operated like a one-room schoolhouse so all of the students in the room are doing different work, different subjects, and different places so it's not the traditional education setting where the teacher is getting a short story ready and the are having a mini-lesson and then they're doing the reading and then they're all taking time to answer questions," said Swigart. "That's not how it works because every student at JSC is working on different work."

Thanks to a partnership between Pennington County Sheriff's Office which employs three teachers for the center and Rapid City Area Schools which employ an above and beyond title instructor, these teachers are changing the lives of their students and one of the teachers is Jennifer McClain.

"I mean you gotta say look trust me this is going to pay off for you in the long run and I think honesty is important too because there is some days that students don't feel like doing any schoolwork and so having that rep ore and being able to work with students to say it's ok you can take a ten-minute break and lets get back at this and having someone be on your side I think is really important," said McClain.

While teachers in all settings strive to earn their student's trust, it can be a challenge in the JSC setting. A challenge these teachers have the patience to tackle.

"The teacher here helped me out really well; she believed in me more than I believed in myself, she motivated me and supported me along the way, she was there with me day to day, she struggled along with me to get my education so it was great," said one student at the center.

In 2019, the center had seven people graduate with high school diplomas and three more students get GED's. Some of the graduates have discovered a love of learning. One student who recently received his diploma wants to take college courses to get ahead for when he gets out.

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