Saban foundation boosts fortunes of those in Alabama juvenile detention facility

Saban foundation boosts fortunes of those in Alabama juvenile detention facility
Terry Saban tours the new welding training facility at the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Nick and Terry Saban are using Nick’s Kids Foundation to provide needed job skills to residents of the Tuscaloosa Juvenile Detention Center in hopes it will change lives for the better and break a cycle of repeat offenders.

Terry Saban joined center officials and others to cut the ribbon on a new facility built with a $100,000 lead gift from Nick’s Kids. The new facility offers classrooms where residents of the facility can earn a GED. There are also training facilities where residents can learn welding, plumbing, carpentry, electrical repair and auto maintenance.

“Happiness is having choices and when these people, these young residents, leave, they don’t have choices,” Terry Saban said. “They’re going back into the same families, the same communities from which they came. But now, they do have choices. They have an education. They have a skill. They have an opportunity to make money to take care of their families and themselves. It’s a huge change.”

Cathy Joiner Wood, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center, said the programs were needed.

Nick’s Kids helps fund new juvenile detention training facility in Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“This is a dream come true for this facility,” she said.

Wood said youths are often released from the detention center to go back to their previous schools to hang out with the same bad influences and end up getting in trouble again. Giving them a GED and a skill changes the trajectory when they are released from detention.

“We have one success story that happened just this last week. Lulu is her name,” Wood said. “She was exposed to our welding department. She loved welding. (The instructors) said she was one of the best welders to come through the program.”

Because Lulu is 17 and earned her GED, officials at Shelton State Community College were able to get her enrolled in college.

Saban said her famous football coaching husband has a track record that aligns with the mission of the new facility.

“Nick is all about giving second chances to people in life, and sometimes he’s criticized for that,” she said. “But it’s not just in football that we want to give people second chances, it’s in life.”

Saban said she believes this is the first time Nick’s Kids has contributed to a program that directly provides workforce development, but the Sabans’ organization is open to doing more.

“(Nick) also says, ‘Discipline is not to punish people, discipline is to change behavior,’” she said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘How do you change behavior if you’re not changing people’s lives by giving them more choices, more education?’”

Saban hopes to see more success stories like Lulu’s.

“So, when these young people, the residents, are released into society, they have better options, better opportunities for jobs in our world,” she said. “This will make a difference.”

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