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Shelton State Community College’s Partnership with Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center: Planting Seeds of Hope

Quote from GED graduate, "The support I received was overwhelming..."

October 14, 2021 – Shelton State Community College (SSCC) is developing a cooperative partnership with the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center to better meet the needs of West Alabama youth in crisis.  As part of this evolving relationship, leadership at the two institutions is working together to create opportunities for awareness and success.


SSCC President Brad Newman began his tenure by challenging College leadership to make an impact on the community in new and bold ways.  He encouraged his team to think beyond the walls of the College and place themselves in the paths of those needing support.  In accepting this task, SSCC Basketball Coach Joe Eatmon and Adult Education Director Kristen Bobo aligned their talent and services with the needs of the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center.


The members of Shelton State’s Men Basketball meet weekly with the residents of the Juvenile Detention Center.  As with any extracurricular activity, time spent with team members is a reward for residents, and participation must be earned.  Working with Coach Eatmon and his team provides more than simply game skills, however, this time offers life lessons, as well.   “It is easy to get lost – you can’t go somewhere if you don’t have direction,” explains Coach Eatmon.  “We talk with them about making better decisions.  We tell them all the time that we love and care about them and that we want to be there for them.  We want to provide a path to success for those who don’t know how to reach their goals.  Simply put, we want to offer them hope.”


This sentiment is echoed on the business card of Cathy Joiner Wood, the Director of the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center.   “Planting seeds of hope for today’s youth…tomorrow’s leaders.”  In meeting Mrs. Wood, it doesn’t take long to discover that this is also her mission statement.  A former public-school teacher, Mrs. Wood and her dedicated team of staff and volunteers are personally invested in the journeys of those they mentor.   Though there are defined expectations and consequences for all, the team’s overall goal is to create new starting points for those they assist.  “We want to find what matters to these young people and encourage them to make new and better choices.”


For some, new and better choices can include completing their GED or preparing to enter college.  In recent weeks, the success of one resident has captured the attention of many.  Kristen Bobo and Adult Education Staff members provided educational support necessary for this student to succeed through receiving a GED and preparing to enter College.  “We are so excited to witness this success, and even more excited to see how their hard work is inspiring others,” said Bobo.  “We are hopeful that this is just the first of many students at the Juvenile Detention Center choosing to make a big change.”


The difference for this student was found in those offering encouragement.  “The support I received was overwhelming,” said the recent GED graduate.  “I was lost when I came here, but now I feel found and ready to do more.  I want to keep going and get a degree in Industrial Electronics at Shelton State and then work at Nucor.  But I know that I have to choose to change for it to happen.”


“You can see that the partnership with Shelton State is providing more than just skills or a pathway to a job, it is giving students hope for redirection,” states Wood.  By shining a light on this partnership, Wood also hopes to adjust the public perception of the facility.  “People come here expecting one thing and instead find that they want to know more about how to help.  Partnerships like this are how we break cycles and redirect.”


To learn more about the work of the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center and how you can help foster change, contact Cathy Joiner Wood at


A vital member of the Alabama Community College System, Shelton State Community College is committed to creating new opportunities for West Alabama.  “With a renewed focus on meeting the needs of its customers, the College offers innovative solutions and an enhanced approach to customized education, training, and community impact,” states President Brad Newman.  “Collectively, we will be excellent in each!”

Be part of the new vision for our shared community.  Visit to learn more or apply.