"Educate children for three years and guarantee jobs," emphasizes Tucker Jackson, director of Lancaster Vocational School for the Lancaster Board of Education. This is the way he describes his ideals for the training program under his supervision. In working with young people he believes it is essential "to build character as well as skills. It is criminal to have a kid for three years and not provide him with the ability to get and hold a good job."
To develop a program to meet these demands, it was necessary to get away from the birdhouse and doghouse type of thing. Mr. Jackson recognized a modern need to get his students involved in something outstanding they could actually see when grown and remark "I was one of the builders of that house."
So in 1972, after much foresight and groundwork, the program of his students actually building homes was finally instigated. Drafting students worked out the plans, and four or five of the most functional were selected and submitted to the local board of trustees for the final approved set.
Then the masonry department set to work digging the foundation, pouring concrete, putting up pilasters, laying brickwork, building chimneys, driveways, and carports.
The rooms were laid out by the carpentry class from the approved plans, and their training incorporated the reading of blueprints. Framing went up and rafters, heating, and roofing. Sheet rock or paneling was carefully hung. For the kitchens the students built their own cabinets.
Plumbing is not included in the learning process but practically everything else is . . . electricity, painting, landscaping, heating, and air conditioning.
The home-economics students became involved with the decorating, and selected color schemes and patterns for the overall decorative features.
When finished, the house was placed on the market. The buyer did his own financing. The first house sold for $34,000 with a $10,000 profit and ever since the program has been self-supporting.
The profit, of course, is used to finance the construction of the next house. In the beginning one house a year was built. Now after the completion of three houses -- 2,400 to 2,600 square feet -- only one house will be completed every two years. Mr. Jackson states that the school is not a work force, but a learning experience. The highest type of instruction is of paramount importance , and the students are carefully supervised as they perform their tasks.
Not only does the school educate and train for jobs, but its ideal is to keep their young people at home after they have learned work skills. The community is proud of them.
A landmark in the town is its beautiful modern building for housing the Lancaster Vocational School. This type of educational training has grown in South Carolina from early days when it was a subject with only four areas of training -- agriculture, machine shop, textiles, and home economics -- and was taught in old rooms, basements, and annexes.
To meet the demands of housing for its up-dated program of vocational training a federal grant of $265,000 for a new building was given in 1963-1964. As it was required that the sum had to be matched by the school on a 50/50 basis , steps had to be taken to procure the funds. An old condemned high school building was put up for bids and a dedicated local textile company, the Springs Mills, made the only bid of $265,000.