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Deoutrie Dodson says he always dreamed of getting a college education. But for many years, it didn’t seem likely for this young man. The 27-year old Fresno resident faced a series of hardships. But today, he is just a few weeks away from earning his high school diploma. On top of that, he just received a scholarship to help pay for his college education.

Deoutrie is enrolled at the YouthBuild Charter School of California in Fresno. The school offers students aged 18 to 29 a second chance to earn a high school diploma, free of charge. Deoutrie expects to finish earning all his high school credits in December and then go off to college. He has worked hard to get where he is today, as life has thrown him some devastating setbacks.

Deoutrie’s father died when he was a child, and his mother passed away two years ago. He says the tragedy continued as he went to live with his grandmother. “She passed about a month later. So, I was down, like super down. By myself. Literally.” The situation grew even more grim when Deoutrie moved in with his auntie, and she also passed away. With nowhere to turn, he ended up on the streets and eventually a homeless shelter. He had some run-ins with the law and says he came to realize he needed to create a better future for himself.

Deoutrie found YouthBuild Charter School of California, a partner of the Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps (LCC). He has been staying with various friends so he may continue to attend his classes. Deoutrie says this is not his first time attending the program. “I’ve been here for a while on and off. I struggled. So, obviously, it wasn’t a straight path. But I’ve been coming here since I was 18 or 19 years old.”

A few years ago, Deoutrie was enrolled in YouthBuild Charter School of California and was also attending one of LCC’s vocational training programs. LCC offers participants paid job training while they earn an education and offers several vocational programs, including conservation, construction, solar, recycling and landscaping. Deoutrie was in the public lands and trail conservation program. Assistant Director of the Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps, Elisa Sgambellonesaid, “The training programs could potentially guide participants into a career and it can also be the starting point. Our goal is that they continue with their education to make themselves that much more competitive and marketable in the workplace.”

Deoutrie says he received incredible support from the staff at YouthBuild Charter School of California and Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps (LCC). He received assistance from LCC staff to get housing at the agency’s Sanctuary Transitional Shelter while enrolled there. “It’s like a family. They help you with a lot of stuff. And it’s not just a school. It’s a place where you can learn, grow, and build a future. They actually get hands-on with you. I like it. That’s the reason I will graduate from here next month.”

Deoutrie is a dedicated student this time around and just won a $1,000 scholarship which will help him further his education. “I’m going to college. Period. I’m going straight to college right after I graduate.” Deoutrie is one of five students nationally who received the Courage Award from the Reaching At-Promise Students Association. The RAPSA Courage Award goes to students who demonstrate courage in overcoming obstacles and pursuing academic excellence.

Despite his struggles, Deoutrie remains determined and optimistic. He says he wants to study biology and has plans to become an anthropologist. The oldest of seven children, Deoutrie eventually hopes to relocate to South Carolina to reunite with his siblings.

YouthBuild Charter School of California

YouthBuild Charter School of California is a WASC accredited school. Recruitment is ongoing at the school and for Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps. Students are currently attending in-person classes on campus, with COVID-19 safety requirements in place.


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