Photo by Edgar Chaparro via Unsplash

The Miami Youth Academy houses up to 28 boys from 14 to 18 years old, who are sent there by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The students publish stories and poems for their student newspaper Titan Tribune, which they produce in a journalism class run by Exchange for Change, a local nonprofit group that teaches writing classes in youth commitment and adult correctional facilities. Retired newspaper reporter Henry Unger has taught the class for nearly two years in collaboration with the academy and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. This is an article from the March 2020 issue.

By: J. E., Titan Tribune Staff Writer

Student G. C. wants to become a barber and run his own shop. He has been practicing on some of the students to get better.

“I just like cutting hair, so I became interested in trying it myself,” he said. “I found what I want to do for my future.”

How did you learn?

“I really learned by myself,” G. said. “It takes a lot of attention.”

G. said he knows how to do tape-up fades, Mohawks, blowouts, regular fades and drop fades.

“To me, it’s fun and makes time fly,” he said. “It also makes people look good.”

N. F., one of the students whose hair was cut, said, “He does a good job for a starter. I think he has a lot more to go in the future.”

S. H., another student, said, “I would like for him to be my personal barber on the outs.”

How will you run your business?

“I will make sure my business is going well,” G. said. “I’ll make sure all my employees get their payments. …I have a goal that sounds pretty difficult, but I will achieve it. By 2023, I will have $200,000 and two shops. …I’m all about business.”

What mindset do you think you will have when leaving this program? “A positive one,” he said. “I have a daughter that’s 2 years old. I need to be there for her, so nothing but a positive attitude.”

J.E. is a 16-year-old student at Miami Youth Academy, and he says, “My goal is to get out of this program and have a different mindset when I leave. I hope to get my GED and a job when I leave. Also, I would like to make my family happy.”

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Students at Miami Youth Academy

The students at the Miami Youth Academy wrote these stories for their newspaper Titan Tribune, a collaborative effort by the facility, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Exchange for Change, a Miami-based non-profit group that supports writing programs in youth commitment and adult correctional facilities. The students work on the paper in a journalism class taught by retired journalism teacher Henry Unger. The writers are identified by their initials to protect their identities.