Students Building Chromebooks in Miami, Rolling Out Google Apps for Education in Massachusetts, Trumpeting Change in New Orleans

As the school year kicks off, we want to highlight some great stuff happening in schools in juvenile justice facilities around the country, encourage further innovation and change, and offer a glimpse at some of the initiatives we will be sponsoring this year.

Unjammed 3.0:

In late July, we sponsored Tech U, our week-long blended learning training for teachers in juvenile justice facilities. This summer a combination of 82 teachers and leadership from 17 facilities joined the training.  Participating agencies included Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, Missouri Division of Youth Services, Maryland State Department of Education/Department of Juvenile Services, as well as /local agencies running detention centers in Chesapeake, Virginia, Tucson, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Highlights of the training included: teachers mastering SAMR, tinkering with Maskerspace toys, participating in Breakout EDU activities, and integrating all these tools into their 20% project.

Dan Wynne, the lead instructor at the Miami Youth Academy, the school located inside of a Miami juvenile justice facility, left Tech U inspired--and since has started a program where students at his school refurbish old and donated laptops, convert them to chromebooks, and upon release will leave with a chromebook in hand, along with a digital portfolio of their work, an email account, and access to range of technology tools.  Here is what Dan said about participating in Tech U: "Working with a group of dedicated, creative professionals in Tech U inspired me to think outside the limits of the juvenile justice orthodoxy of over-emphasizing security at the expense of student learning.  For many years I have limited student opportunities by fixating on the question 'Why?' Now I'm asking 'Why Not?' Tech U helps teachers break through limits of the plausible. For that, I'm grateful and excited."

Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Roll-out:

Just two weeks after finishing up Tech U, we hosted 45 representatives from four state juvenile justice agencies--Wyoming, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Oregon--as they developed plans to fully roll out the Google Apps for Education and 1:1 Chromebook learning platforms in the schools in their secure care facilities.  These agencies will be leading the push nationwide to expand the use of technology to transform education in juvenile facilities.  By using the google apps console and security settings carefully, agencies will be able to offer students expanded access to technology as they demonstrate responsibility and growth as digital citizens.  

What will start out as sharing comments with fellow students and teachers on a classroom writing assignment, will end up with students being able to communicate with social workers, parents and representatives from the schools they will be transitioning to, with students leaving juvenile facilities with all of their work stored online, with updated and accurate transcripts that are immediately available, and with students taking classes and learning with students from all over the country.  In Massachusetts, Woody Clift, the director of the Collaborative for Educational Services that delivers the educational programming for the state’s Department of Youth Services stated: "Transitioning over to Google Apps for Education makes a lot of sense for the Collaborative, our teachers and students.  The technology enables us to be more student-centered, supports portability as students transition back home and back to schools in their communities, and affords students the chance to access resources and connect with people they need to be successful.  We're excited to enhance our efforts to create blended learning classrooms across the state by adding this technology--with support from CEEAS and the other agencies in our cohort.”


The Travis Hill School Opens up in the New Orleans Juvenile Detention Center:

On August 22nd, we opened up the Travis Hill School, located inside of the youth detention center in New Orleans.  The school, which is run by CEEAS, represents the first attempt in Louisiana for a local school district to partner with a nonprofit to run the educational program inside of a detention center.  The school is funded primarily through the state per pupil funding formula, supplemented by additional funding designed to address the unique challenges of running a school in a small, short-term facility.  

The school is named after New Orleans native Travis Hill.  Mr. Hill spent time at the detention center as a teen and then spent nine years in adult prison. Upon release he pursued a music career and became a renown trumpet player, going by the name Trumpet Black. He coined the phrase and popular song, Trumpets, Not Guns. He played widely in New Orleans, the US and abroad, before dying tragically at a young age while touring in Japan. Travis Hill’s mother visited the school on August 19th.  When asked about the significance of naming the school after her son, she stated: “I’m excited to have a school named after Travis.  He was an inspiration to many while he lived.  He was committed to our City and our City’s youth. I’m hopeful that he can continue to provide motivation to young people who pass through the Youth Study Center, and the school that now bears his name.”

As with our sister school, Maya Angelou Academy, located in Washington, DC, the Travis Hill School:

  • Is organized around short, thematic, modular units designed to make learning meaningful, relevant and engaging to students who enter and exit throughout the school year.  The theme for the first unit this year is Change.

  • Has a strong focus on developing a positive, safe school culture centered around a set of agreed to values, positive incentives, frequent opportunities to celebrate success and academic achievement and mutual respect and understanding.  The school has adopted a set of values that ground its work. Those values are Respect, Integrity, Good Judgment, Hope/Inspiration and Teamwork (our RIGHT values).

  • Believes deeply in developing students’ creative and artistic talents, nurturing self-expression and student voice, and encouraging students to develop a passion for learning.

  • Will actively engage with family and the community through partnerships and volunteers to support healthy, successful transitions for students when they return home.

The Travis Hill School is staffed by a small team of dedicated professionals, led by Ismail El-Shaakir, the school’s principal. If you interested in learning more about the Travis Hill School, feel free to visit our temporary website.  The site will be updated over the next few weeks to provide more in-depth information about the school.  


CEEAS National Initiatives Calendar:

Each year, we sponsor a series of initiatives designed to offer teachers high quality, curricular and instructional materials that they can use with students in confined settings.  The initiatives often include some sort of competition and an opportunity for students to share their skills with adults beyond the walls of their classroom or facility.  Click here to view the new initiatives’ website. The initiatives are open to teachers everywhere, at no charge.  Many of our readers are familiar with our initiatives, including Start from Scratch, Unbound and Words Unlocked.  This year we are sponsoring two new ones: The Cardboard Challenge and Understanding Finance and Investing.  Below is a calendar highlighting each initiative--with the preliminary dates and a brief summary for each.  We are excited to bring these to the field, and to highlight the skills and talent of students held in confinement.  If you have ideas on additional initiatives that we should sponsor, please send us your ideas.


We know there are teams of educators all over the country doing exactly what our staff at the Travis Hill School is doing every day: giving their all to our society’s most marginalized, forgotten, and hidden away young people.  And as the new school year starts off, we salute all of educators out there who are working in the best interest of youth held in confinement.

If you have good news to share about educational programming happening inside of juvenile justice facility, please send us an email with a brief description of the work.  We will reach out to you to learn more and see if we can highlight it in our next newsletter.

Best of luck with the new school year,

-David, for all of us at CEEAS

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