Mahoning Valley Vocational School

The Mahoning Valley Vocational School (MVVS) was established at the U. S. Air Force Base in Vienna in July 29, 1964 under the Manpower, Development, and Training Act of 1962. The MVVS was a residential vocational training program for troubled or "disadvantaged" Ohio boys.

The program was geared towards boys ages 16 to 21 that were not attending school, unemployed, or were unable to work due to cultural, educational, economical, or social problems. Any boy that enrolled was accepted into the program. The school was the first of its kind in the nation as it assisted young men to gain the skills, work habits, attitudes to be productive in society.

The school was established:

  • To serve young men of Ohio who find themselves unprepared to compete for employment in our modern society.

  • To help provide marketable skills which will enable them to secure permanent employment.

  • To assist them in developing their individual talents, good moral character, a wholesome outlook on life, strong and healthy bodies, and that sense of social responsibility which will render them contributing and well-adjusted citizens of an increasingly complex society.

Facilities at the training site included four furnished dormitories, Basic Education Building, Guidance Center, Well-equipped vocational shops, Recreation Center, Medical Dispensary, religious services and guidance with chaplains. A gymnasium with indoor and outdoor facilities included football, baseball, basketball, and boxing. A dining hall was also on the premises where meals were served cafeteria style. The funding for the facilities was possible 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.

Byrl R. Shoemaker (FG), Director, Division of Vocational Education, State of Ohio, came up with the concept of a residential vocational school in January of 1964. Shoemaker is quoted from a 1964 pamphlet advertising the MVVS:

I have the overriding feeling that a man will not be an effective citizen in his community, state, and nation if he is not a productive worker in the economy. To this end, the Mahoning Valley Vocational School provides young men with experiences which are appropriate to the individual needs of each student.

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 courses ranged from 3 to 12 months, 8 hours of classroom work each day. Courses were based on state approved outlines. Evening classes offered included baking, general office, machine shop, drafting, welding, peripheral equipment.

Basic education skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic were also taught. The teaching techniques used in Basic Training was individualized instruction, grouping and tracking, team teaching, programmed and machine instruction, team teaching, programmed and machine instruction, simultaneous instruction, and released time instruction.

Health and safety instructions were given daily to all trainees in subjects such as personal development, health habits, improving the environment, community health services, general safety habits, first aid, safe driving practices, family living, driver's education, and speech and hearing therapy.

Self instruction, referred to as Programmed Learning, 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.

On-campus recreation was offered all year round including intramural football, basketball, volleyball, and softball, badminton, horseshoes, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing, movies, ping-pong, bowling. The boys could also participate on a varsity 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 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.

The school had 18 instructors in the Basic Training Education Department and 19 instructors in the Vocational Training Department.

In 1966:

The Director of the MVVS was Don E. Watson. The maximum capacity at the MVVS was 485 students at a time with an annual enrollment of about 900 students from all across the state.

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.

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.

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 at 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 between 70% and 80%. There was also a follow-up program in place to keep track of graduating students and their success and determine if improvement in certain classes were warranted.

Contributor: Christine Novicky

Updated 12/17/2021