Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rusk County Commissioners To Hear Proposal

Staff Writer

HENDERSON -- Rusk County commissioners want residents to give input on a proposed youth preservation college.

That's why they are holding a public hearing tonight in Hender-son. It is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the county courthouse, 115 N. Main St.
The college, being proposed by Bishop L.J. Guillory, would be housed at the former Hill High School on Sand Street. It would be used as a school for 15- to 17-year-olds -- primarily those who have committed a crime and received deferred adjudication, Guillory said.

The facility consists of multiple buildings, including a cafeteria and gym, and it last was used for a kindergarten.

"We think that (this college) is necessary in a time when we are preserving all types of insects, all types of God's creations that seem to be significant for nature," Guillory said. "Yet we have not started a situation where it is important for us to preserve our own existence -- our children."

He said there are cases all over Texas in which young people were given deferred adjudication be-cause attorneys thought that if teenagers were given an opportunity, they would prove they would be respectful to the court and turn their lives around.

However, he said, some youths are having their probation revoked and ending up in prison.

"So we're trying to put together an opportunity for those who have not gotten (a high school) diploma," Guillory said. "They can take necessary classes and college classes at the same time, and the programs offered would give them a boost in East Texas to take occupations that will allow them to make more than minimum wage."

He said the new preservation college, if constructed, could offer courses that cover useful skill sets, such as how to fly an airplane. A Sunday church service also will be part of the curriculum, and a psychiatrist and psychologist will be on staff, he said. Guillory's ultimate goal is for 350 students to receive an associate's degree and be off deferred adjudication within two years.

In the meantime, though, he is looking at funding options. And he said if commissioners decide to give a letter of support for the project, after hearing what residents have to say as well as a presentation, then that letter will allow the organization to also apply for various grants.

As of Monday, Guillory had no cost estimates or specific timeline for the proposed college.
However, he expects the college to bring "a multitude of blessings." "I received phone calls from teachers from this area called in wanting to know when they can turn in application," Guillory said. "Most junior colleges have a start and stop date, but we can take them almost at any time."
Additionally, he said, E.E. Hill -- Hill High School's namesake and former principal -- was elated when he heard about the preservation college initiative. "He was so excited about what we were doing he started weeping," Guillory said.

Rusk County Precinct 1 Commissioner Bill Hale said he agrees with what Guillory is trying to do, in theory, but said he has "strong reservations" on whether Henderson is the place for it.

Hill High School "is within a neighborhood," he said. "If it was outside a populated area, I would feel better about it. But I still want to know how the public feels about it and if they want us to give (Guillory) a (letter of support)."