Fresno’s notorious “Hall of Shame” will be transformed into a state-of-the-art alternative education site in southeast Fresno.
Fresno Unified trustees voted unanimously Wednesday night to buy the old juvenile hall campus on Tenth Street, ending months of negotiations with the county of Fresno.
“Fresno Unified can take this building to the ground, along with all the bad memories it holds, and create a new academic center that lifts our students and our community,” Nelson said.
The new campus, which is dubbed the “Urban Academy” for now, will be on 12.5-acres at the southwest corner of Ventura and Tenth.
The $1.2 million for the site and the $300,000 estimated cost for investigations, testing, and surveying will come from Measure X funds.
The Hall of Shame
The former juvenile facility’s “Hall of Shame” designation came from award-winning investigative reporting led by Barbara Anderson and George Hostetter of The Fresno Bee in 2001.
A headline on the lead story was “It’s unsafe, decrepit, ‘barbaric.’ A place where children rot. Step inside.”
The Bee’s reporting motivated county leaders to do better for youth and they replaced the Hall of Shame with the Juvenile Justice Campus on east American Avenue near Highway 99.
Producing Doctors Instead of Parolees
From his early days riding his bicycle near the juvenile hall, Councilmember Luis Chavez said he always knew it was a place he didn’t want to be in.
“This building was a symbol of punishment, a symbol of crime, a place where you came if you did something bad,” Chavez said. “But now, this place will be a building where young people can come and build their dreams, be inspired and achieve their full potential.”
Instead of producing future parolees or probationers, Chavez said the facility will produce future doctors, lawyers, and business owners.
“As a district, we are committed to supporting our students throughout those challenges, and the transformation of this facility to a state-of-the-art alternative education complex is an example.” — Fresno Unified board president Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas
Roosevelt High area trustee and board president Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas hopes the facility makes students, parents, and the surrounding community proud.
“We know many of our kids struggle and have unfortunately ended up in institutions like the one that was here,” Rosas said. “As a district, we are committed to supporting our students throughout those challenges, and the transformation of this facility to a state-of-the-art alternative education complex is an example.”
From Shattered Dreams To Field of Dreams
The Hall of Shame will soon become a “Field of Dreams,” said Sal Quintero, chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
“It has been years in the making to take this over and turn it into something that this neighborhood can really be proud of,” Quintero said.
Bullard High area trustee Brooke Ashjian said that the board’s approval of the purchase agreement was a great moment in his life and a great moment for Fresno Unified.
“For me to end my time here in the next 30 days on the Fresno Unified School Board and to be able to vote in support of a place where kids’ dreams came to die to a place where kids’ dreams can come to be set free is a great opportunity for me,” Ashjian said.
Right Direction For Everyone
The big picture, Chavez said, is not just about building a new education center, it is about building children’s futures and building south Fresno’s future.
“The rebirth of southeast Fresno needs a foundation based on education, and that is exactly what this building will do,” Chavez said.
“The demolition of this building and the construction of a brand new, top quality educational facility, designed to support the ongoing education for our students for whom traditional high school has already proved a struggle is a step in the right direction for everybody,” Nelson said.