Byrl R. Shoemaker, director of the Ohio State Division of Vocational Education, proposed the concept of a vocational boarding school in January 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 the disabled or “disadvantaged” Ohio boys. The school opened on July 29, 1964 and was located at Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna.
The program was aimed at boys aged 16 to 21 with cultural, educational, economic and/or social problems. Many young men were rejected by the armed forces because they were emotionally immature and/or educationally unsuitable, or did not meet Job Corps requirements. Many were also high school dropouts or high school graduates who lacked marketable skills. Any boy enrolled in the MVVS was accepted into the program.
The school’s mission was to help young men acquire the skills, work habits, and appropriate attitudes to be productive in society. The program also helped trainees develop their individual talents, good character, sound mind and body, and a sense of social responsibility.
The educational phase of the program was funded by the Manpower, Development and Training Act 1962. The residential phase of the program was funded by a $250,000 trust fund established by the Leon A. Beeghly Foundation.
The following vocational training courses were offered: electrical appliance repairer, bodybuilder, car mechanic, car service station mechanic, baker, bookkeeper, general office clerk, cook, gardener-keeper, draftsman, tabulator operator and console operator, building maintenance, machine operator, stock inventory clerk, welder, small engine repairman and peripheral equipment operator. The duration of the program varied from 6 to 12 months depending on the field of study. Students generally attended eight hours of lessons a day.
MVVS facilities included four furnished dormitories, an education building, an orientation center, vocational training workshops, a recreation center and a medical dispensary. A dining room was also located on the premises where meals were served in a cafeteria style.
Advice and supervision in the dormitories were 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.
The placement of graduates from the training center would be around 80%. There was also a tracking program to keep track of graduating students and their success so that improvements in certain classes could be made.
Don E. Watson, director of MVVS, testified to the school’s success in 1966 before the House of Representatives General Subcommittee on Education during consideration of the 1966 Professional Amendments.
In 1967, Watson gave another testimonial in hopes of obtaining funds for the expansion of the program. At that time, the maximum capacity of MVVS was 485 students at a time with an annual enrollment of approximately 900 students from across the state. The cost of the school per student was expected to be $3,500 in 1967, whereas in previous years the cost was around $2,500 per student.
By 1969, over 2,000 students had graduated from MVVS since it opened. Even though the program was considered a success and operated more economically than the Job Corps program at the time, the Department of Labor withheld future funding, causing its closure in August 1970.