The local juvenile detention center was responsible for 13 percent of Texas high school students that graduated while in correctional facilities last year.

The Grayson County Juvenile Detention Center Post-Adjudication Facility, which is more commonly known as Grayson County Boot Camp, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of students graduating high school following implementation of school reforms. Sherman Independent School District Alternative Programs Principal Jim May said the number of students graduating from boot camp has gone from the state average of about one and a half per year to 15 graduates last year, when there were 146 students enrolled at the facility, following what he described as a drastic overhaul of the way the school serves students.

“These kids all come with a story — they are juvenile offenders,” May said. “They struggle to get back into schools or they have schools who don’t want offenders. We made a real push to get these kids to graduate to be successful in life.”

Though the facility is located at 86 Dyess in Denison, its educational components are overseen by Sherman ISD. Grayson County’s website states the Post Adjudication Program at the Grayson County Department of Juveniles Services began in 1996. The Texas Tribune reports the boot camp had 71 students during the 2016-2017 school year.

May said the facility recently went to a self-paced curriculum and that has motivated many of the students to work harder at graduating.

Still, May said the numbers only tell part of the story. He explained out of the 2,555 students across the state in corrections, only 113 graduated high school last year. More than 13 percent of those were graduates from the Grayson County facility.

Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Grayson County Lisa Thomlinson explained all students need an education to help them succeed.

“We’re super proud of the change everybody has made and what we are doing with these kids,” Thomlinson said of the work at the boot camp. “These kids have a dim future without an education to help level the playing field. I am glad Sherman ISD gives us the resources we need to give these kids a decent life for themselves.”

Thomlinson said staff start talking to students about graduating high school once they get to boot camp.

“A lot of those kids might not be successful if they return to their home districts,” Thomlinson said. “Getting them to graduate here is important to helping them stay out of the criminal justice system. We are invested in these kids — we want to see them succeed.”

May explained the education program at the boot camp is computer-based with students having access to a core teacher that can answer questions on the student’s level while letting the students work at their own pace.

A few of the students from the Grayson County Juvenile Detention Center Color Guard presented the flags at a recent Sherman ISD board of trustees meeting where May presented his report. The alternative programs principal also talked about some of the programs at Perrin Learning Center, which is the district’s non-disciplinary school of choice. He said students were improving there as well with the facility’s programs. May told the board members those students tend to do better with fewer distractions and less structure than the students in the boot camp program.