The education professionals at Prescott Lakes Parkway High School show the ultimate in resilience, dedication, and caring

By Katie Marie Chatham • Photo by Trisha Shaffer

As society returns to a state of post-pandemic normalcy—most of us are ready to put to rest the fear and chaos COVID-19 brought—it’s time to shine a light on those who persevered in ways some of us will never understand. We are so proud of our nurses, teachers, frontline workers, and service industry workers. We also want to give credit where credit is due to the teachers at the Juvenile Justice Center who showed up every day, providing their students with the education and skillsets they deserve.

Prescott Lakes Parkway High School is a year-round high school opportunity at the Prescott Juvenile Justice Center. It is also one of the few facilities in the state that continued to provide in-person instruction to students throughout the pandemic, thanks to teachers and staff who pushed beyond their fear.

Gay Lockling, Director at Juvenile Court, said of the unique situation, “Imagine all the rowdy kids in class that get sent to the principal’s office. These are those kids in one class. Now add the pandemic. These teachers truly showed up – every single day.”

The team of instructors, staff, and detention officers receive specialized training to provide the best educational experience possible in a juvenile detention setting. Before the pandemic, the students went straight from the general population to school; however, quarantine during the height of the pandemic meant that each student would go into a quarantine pod for 14 days to be sure they were COVID free. During those 14 days, the detention teachers, with the assistance of the detention officers, would administer education packets so students could remain on track with their education.

“We have such a well-equipped staff of educators and detention officers,” Gay said, adding, “These kids leave here with a skillset they never knew they had.”

Tara Newman, Deputy Director, explained, “School is their favorite place to go, and they advance greatly because they are understood by their instructors who have faith in them and they are educated in a space that is free of judgement.”

The teachers often leave worn out and tired, but their resiliency, and the resilience they see in the students, provides a sense of reward that keeps each instructor coming back, she said.

Three instructors and a registrar equip the students by first helping them to understand the reality of their situation, and then engaging them in moving forward in their education. The biggest celebration for everyone is graduation for those who complete the requirements for a high school diploma.

Tim Carter, Yavapai County Superintendent of Schools, performs the graduation ceremony and Judge Anna Young is the keynote speaker. Each graduating student gets to experience commencement and celebrate the huge achievement of graduating high school.

Marvy McNeese, School Principal, couldn’t help but get emotional sharing this about the students and staff she works with every day: “I am so proud of my staff and our program. The teachers—Darlene Thompson, Lori Stuckman, and Aubrey Castleberry—do amazing work with our students.  The youth we serve come from a variety of backgrounds and have multiple needs that the teachers address.  It’s not just education, but social and emotional, life skills, anger issues, feelings of abandonment, mental health, the list goes on. I venture to say my teachers are among the most patient and caring in our state. I am incredibly blessed to serve my teachers and our students in this environment.  The support we receive from detention and probation is incredible. This is truly the most cohesive and caring environment, and our kiddos are the ultimate beneficiaries.”