WKU PBS installed a television studio and set inside the Juvenile Detention Facility in Warren County as a pilot project to provide workforce development training and educational augmentation to the residents. WKU PBS hopes to provide similar opportunities at the other detention centers across the Commonwealth and is creating a template for other PBS member stations across the nation to provide similar projects.
Over a two-week period in late July and early August, a residential unit was transformed into a television studio and production control room. The actual mobile control facility from WKU PBS was relocated to inside the secure facility in downtown Bowling Green. During that time period, residents were given a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction with television equipment.
The lessons were designed to echo STEM curriculum requirements and focused primarily on technology, team-building and math. Each participating resident was given 30 hours of instruction over the course of the two-week period. Professional and student staff from WKU PBS and Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center (WRJDC) educators provided the training.
“When we talk about targeting at-risk populations and making a difference, we had an opportunity to specifically reach out to a group that remains largely ignored except through the efforts of the court system,” said David Brinkley, director of WKU Public Broadcasting. “We wanted to plant seeds in young minds to help them see the possibilities of engagement and teamwork. This was a tremendous growth opportunity for all involved. We greatly appreciate the faith that the Department of Juvenile Justice placed in us by understanding the potential high value of this experience.”
One of the WKU students involved, Bowling Green senior Jordan Upton, said the WRJDC project was “a humbling experience that had never been done before, so its sweeping success was flooring. We were able to interact with the residents on a professional level and also on a personal level. Not one of us left unchanged. This project made a difference, and everyone there knew it.”
At the end of the instructional periods, the residents of the facility produced two episodes of long-running public affairs program, Outlook with Barbara Deeb, that will air on WKU PBS. The guests included U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie and Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley.
Dr. Rebecca Painter has been an educator at WRJDC for 16 years. “I began this period of my professional career after 13 years at a local elementary school located in a lower-socioeconomically labeled community,” she said. “At the beginning of my time here, I saw several of my former elementary students come through these doors. As time has progressed, I am beginning to see some of their children. To me, this is positive proof that these children are caught in a perpetual cycle of defeatism. Schools have not been successful in taking the place of home, parents, church, community, etc. Because of this delinquency, the department of juvenile justice has been called upon to fix the problem. To date, we have not been able to correct the many years of deficits.
“However, I know for a fact, that WRJDC has striven to help our at-risk students reclaim some of their childhood and to build them up so they have a higher self-concept and a bigger sense of citizenship. Whether we have them for a day, week, month, or year, we strive to impart words of encouragement, wisdom, self-motivation and hope.
“As part of Bowling Green Independent Schools teaching staff, I reinforce the WRJDC philosophy with the addition of BGISD Goals and Expectations. I teach 21st Century Skills and help my students develop global awareness, innovation, critical thinking skills, communication skills, collaboration skills and technology skills. The project with WKYU/PBS filled each of these categories. The interview with Secretary Tilley and U.S. Congressman Guthrie exposed them to national and global awareness. The work with the PBS staff exposed them to all of the other skills. This was a true hands-on, real-life exercise that allowed them to participate in some phenomenal vocational skills. The students are eagerly awaiting the airing of the programs so they can see their work product!”
“It was a great experience being able to participate in a program with the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center to help young residents develop skills that they can use in the work place,” Congressman Guthrie said. “I admire the dedication and hard work of all of the staff who have put together a successful program in providing workforce development for these young residents.”
Secretary Tilley added, “WKU PBS has provided an invaluable experience to the youth at Warren Regional. Not only were the kids incredibly engaged, they showed a high degree of professionalism and learned important lessons about the value of hard work and dedication. I applaud everyone who contributed to this effort.”
Outlook host Barbara Deeb said she “witnessed a palpable transformation as I watched the WRJDC residents grow in confidence over the course of their training. On show day, I had the unique vantage point of seeing the faces behind the cameras, and watched with pride as these young people were empowered to make a television program.”
WKU PBS believes that this type of engagement is at the core of the public media mission. They hope to find funding to engage in similar training with the residents of other facilities across the Commonwealth.
“Working with WKU PBS to me meant a chance for a better future,” one juvenile resident said. “It meant that there are people out there who don’t know us, but believe we have a greater potential than being here. It meant that people out there want to help us reach success and have the means to help.”
Brinkley added: “At the core of the public broadcasting mission is service to our communities. We can all find ways to make a difference in the lives of our young people, even if the circumstances are less than ideal.”
Outlook with Barbara Deeb (produced from the detention center) has the following airdates:
Congressman Brett Guthrie
- Aug. 28 — 8:30 a.m.
- Sept. 10 — 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 11 — 8:30 a.m.
- Sept. 12 — 8:30 p.m.
Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Secretary John Tilley
- Sept. 3 — 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 4 — 8:30 a.m.
- Sept. 5 — 8:30 p.m.
Contact: David Brinkley, (270) 745-6140