A small grey building on Baranof Avenue, next to Revilla Alternative School, has been transformed. The building, which was once a storage shed, has a fresh coat of paint and is now an educational center for at-risk kids who need a little extra help.
A few months ago the building’s interior was covered in 1950s style wood paneling. It had exposed pipes and was filled with materials for Ketchikan High School’s annual senior carnival. Over the summer, the Ketchikan School Board and Borough Assembly agreed to rent the building to Residential Youth Care, or RYC, for use as an educational center.
“I helped rip up the carpet, sand the floor, paint. I helped with the bathroom plumbing , electrical. I did both rooms I painted the wall there. I painted this wall. I did a lot with the walls. I was in jail for that one. I didn’t get to the roof, that was like the only thing.”
Kade Robinson is one of nearly 30 kids currently living at RYC. The home, which is separate from the ed center, provides emergency shelter and long-term residential treatment for teens with behavioral or emotional disturbances.
For Robinson, construction is nothing new. He is studying the trade. “This place definitely helped me out. I learned a lot working here. It wasn’t like one of those normal jobs where they say do this, and you do it. They sat there and explained why and helped me out with it. It was really cool.”
David Maynard, the Education Director for RYC, said having kids work on the building has given them a greater sense of ownership.“ They contributed to the construction of this building and they use it for academic progress. This has really become a kind of gem for the school district.”
Most of the RYC kids are enrolled at Revilla Alternative School or Ketchikan High School. Some students use the space to study when they are not in class, but for others enrolled in online classes through Revilla and Kayhi, the ed center computers are the classroom.
Before the building was remodeled, RYC used Kayhi computer labs during off hours. But as demand grew within Kayhi for online classes, there was less time available for RYC students.
Maynard said it’s nice to have their own space. Another staff member likened the move to moving out of mom and dad’s house into the backyard clubhouse.
The building is not a school, and isn’t supposed to be.
Maynard said the interior was designed to create a warm, non-institutional feel. “Kind of a Polynesian theme with the wave colors, the sunset colors and then pictures to match that.” Maynard points to flowers on the wall.
For Robinson it’s working. He said he can tell his emotional well-being has improved.“ It feels like I’m getting what I need to to get done. I feel like I’m learning stuff that’s going to help me out in the long run.”
On his way out the door, he said the ed center doesn’t feel like school, and that’s a good thing. “I don’t feel overwhelmed and stuck and surrounded by people. I feel like I’m actually being helped instead of pressured into doing stuff.”
Robinson hops into a 12-person passenger van. Other RYC kids shuffle around to make room for him and the binder he carries like a briefcase. The ed center’s proximity to Revilla makes it easy for RYC staff to transport kids home.
Maynard said the one-room educational center, packed with computers and high-speed Internet, should fulfill RYC’s unique educational needs as far into the future as he can see.