Mahoning Valley Vocational School

Byrl R. Shoemaker, Director, Division of Vocational Education of the State of Ohio, came up with the concept of a residential vocational school in January of 1964. Under the Manpower, Development, and Training Act of 1962, the Mahoning Valley Vocational School (MVVS) was established as the first residential vocational training program for troubled or "disadvantaged" Ohio boys. The school opened on July 29, 1964 and was located on the U. S. Air Force Base in Vienna.

The program was geared toward boys ages 16 to 21 with cultural, educational, economical, and/or social problems. Many of the young men were rejected by the Armed Forces as they were emotionally immature and/or educationally unfit or did not meet the requirements for Job Corps. Many were also high school dropouts or were high school graduates that did not have a salable skill. Any boy that enrolled at the MVVS was accepted into the program.

The school's mission was to assist young men in gaining the skills, work habits, and proper attitudes to be productive in society. The program also assisted trainees with the development of individual talents, good moral character, healthy mind and body, and a sense of social responsibility.

The educational phase of the program was funded by the Manpower, Development, and Training Act of 1962. The residential phase of the program was funded through a $250,000 trust fund established by the Leon A. Beeghly Foundation.[1]

Map of the Mahoning Valley Vocational School campus at the Youngstown Airbase.

The following vocational training was offered:

  • Electrical Appliance Repairman

  • Auto Body Repairman

  • Auto Mechanic

  • Auto Service Station Attendant Mechanic

  • Baker

  • Accounting Clerk

  • General Office Clerk

  • Cook

  • Groundskeeper-Custodian

  • Draftsman

  • Tabulating Machine and Console Operator

  • Building Maintenance

  • Machine Operator

  • Stock Inventory Clerk

  • Welding

  • Small Engine Repair

  • Peripheral Equipment Operator

Students in Shop Class circa 1965

The length of the program ranged from 6 to 12 months depending on area of study. Students generally attended 8 hours of class each day. Some evening classes were offered and included baking, general office, machine shop, drafting, welding, and peripheral equipment.

In addition to the Vocational Training Department, there was a Basic Training Department that taught students math, reading, and writing skills. Various teaching techniques were used, which included individualized instruction, grouping and tracking, team teaching, programmed and machine instruction, team teaching, simultaneous instruction, and released time instruction. In 1966, the school had 18 instructors in the Basic Training Education Department and 19 instructors in the Vocational Training Department.

Health and safety instructions were given to trainees in personal development, health habits, improving the environment, community health services, general safety habits, first aid, and family living. Speech and hearing therapy services were also offered.

Self-instruction was offered at the Programmed Learning Center, which opened in August of 1965 at the MVVS. Approximately 116 topics were offered, including Music Theory, Russian Language, French Language, Accounting Mathematics, Algebra Refresher, Basic Electricity, Applied Logic, Vocabulary Growth, and Effective Business Letter Writing. The Programmed Learning Center also contained a library with newspapers, magazines, and books for leisure reading.

After follow-up from employers of past MVVS students, it was found that the inability to drive was a job handicap as some graduates could not get to and from work. The MVVS also found that if students were trained in mechanics that they should be able to drive. As a result, drivers education was added to the curriculum in 1966.

Facilities at MVVS included four furnished dormitories, an education building, a guidance center, vocational shops, a recreation center, and a medical dispensary. A dining hall was also on the premises where meals were served cafeteria style.

A registered nurse, housed in the school's dispensary, was also on site during the day to provide first aid and minor medical services on campus. Medical emergencies were referred to the school's physician.

Counseling and dormitory supervision was provided by men with training and/or experience in sociology or youth work. A psychologist was available, as well as religious services with chaplains, including a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister.

On Sundays, both Catholic and non-denominational services were provided at the campus. That same year there was a Bible Club and a Catholic Youth Club. Special arrangements were made for those of the Jewish faith to attend services at a local synagogue. Trainees were also permitted to attend a local church service of their choosing.

On-campus recreation was offered all year round including intramural football, basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton, horseshoes, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, movies, ping-pong, and bowling. The boys could also participate in a basketball competition that was established in a local community league. Talent shows were also conducted on the premises. There was also a campus chorus group, student council, and a Letterman's Club. For off-campus recreation the trainees would travel by bus for ice skating, roller skating, bowling, plays, miniature golf, and dances.

Campus life at Mahoning Valley Vocational School.

Don E. Watson, director of the MVVS, gave a testimonial of the success of the school in 1966 before the General Subcommittee on Education in the House of Representatives when the Vocational Amendments of 1966 were being considered.

Watson gave another testimonial in hopes to gain funding for expansion of the program in 1967. At the time he reported, the maximum capacity at the MVVS was 485 students at one time with an annual enrollment of about 900 students from all across the state. The cost of the school per student was projected to be $3,500 in 1967, and in previous years the cost was approximately $2,500 per student.

By 1969, the director of the MVVS was Robert M. Small.

The first graduation at the Mahoning Valley Vocational School.

A success story of a MVVS graduate:

Bill Brumfield, 19, who graduated from MVVS says "A year's training at Mahoning Valley gave me a stake in the future" by providing me with the skills to land a steady job as an Auto Mechanic with a Columbus, Ohio, automobile dealer, where I am earning close to $100 a week. Bill, one of 11 children, dropped out of school in the 8th grade. By being able to complete a 46-week course at MVVS, he was given a chance to "try for higher things." Now he will not be doomed to remain in the gas fields of West Virginia, doing part-time work, or be forced to face months of total unemployment elsewhere.

A success story of a MVVS parent:

"Living in a dormitory away from home did a lot of good for my son. It made him more mature. Your program is a wonderful thing that boys could not get otherwise. It means a lot to the boys financially because of the special training they receive," said mother of Curtis Meglemry Jr., 36 Revere Drive, Hamilton, Ohio, who graduated from a 26-week course in General Office Clerk training at MVVS on March 3, 1965.

Testimonials from employers of MVVS graduates:

"We normally do not even take high school dropouts. The only reason Richard Hacker, MVVS graduate from Hamilton, Ohio, was even interviewed and later hired as a shipping clerk, was his vocational training at MVVS. His attendance has been good, he works well, and he is willing to do anything he is asked," says a Hamilton, Ohio woodworking company.

"In regard to the progress of graduate Phil Halley, Cleveland, he is an excellent employee, and has a good basic knowledge of his job being a cook. From my conversation with him, and in supervising his work, I would say that a fine job was done by MVVS in introducing him to the field of cooking," says a Cleveland, Ohio restaurant chain.

Job placement of graduates from the training center was reported to be approximately 80%. There was also a follow-up program to keep track of graduating students and their success. With this follow-up process in place, improvements in certain classes were made by the school.

A few businesses that employed MVVS graduates locally included Youngstown Northside Hospital, Copperweld, Warren General Hospital, Westinghouse, Republic Steel, and St. Elizabeth's Hospital. By 1969 over 2,000 students had graduated from the MVVS since its opening in 1964.

Even though the program was deemed a success and operated more economically than the Job Corps program at the time, the Department of Labor denied future funding causing its closure by August 1970. [2]

Contributor: Christine Novicky
Updated 7/21/2022