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RV Technicians in Training: Incarcerated students become certified technicians

Posted at 5:20 PM, Sep 06, 2023

GATESVILLE, Texas — Every Monday through Friday, a group of women at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Woodman Campus in Gatesville spend six hours toward getting certified as RV technicians.

Student Stephanie Farris says she doesn't get tired of it.

“It's the weekend and you get to relax, but I'm just like, 'Is it Monday? When can I go back to school?'," Farris said.

Another student, Angela Gilbreth, says she was looking for a way to pass the time and stumbled upon the class.

“It was something that I was looking for that I never even knew I wanted — it's just filled a lot of void," Gilbreth said.

Students like Gilbreth, Farris and Tamara Lewis all ended up at the Woodman campus by different circumstances. In this program, however, they have found not only a career, but hope.

"Coming in this program has built a confidence in me, and built and worked on me internally,” Gilbreth said.

“Not just my label with my convictions on me, but somebody that can be an asset or somebody that can do something other than live the lifestyle and be the person that I've always felt like that I deserve to be.”

In a seeimgly hopeless and lonely place, these women found hope and a community.

A graduate of the program, Octavia Watson, says the support from her classmates helped her finish her program.

“We all kind of helped each other out, like the girls who came before me passed notes to me and then I passed on stacks of notes," Watson said.

Offering more than just a class, this group brings a sense of community and accomplishment.

“I just remember last time we ran through the water outside I was like 'I did it!' — it's such an accomplishment, you just feel so successful,” Farris said.

Once they complete the program, they'll be certified RV technicians. They'll be able able to handle everything from electrical issues to plumbing issues.

More importantly, they will have a way to move forward in their lives.

“I really do believe that this is something that will help us rebuild our lives because you know, we've lost so much coming here," Lewis said.

"Once you get here, you are stripped of everything. It really feels like there's no way up, and just being offered this opportunity — it’s great. It’s huge.”

Representatives from Ron Hoover RV, the company partnering with Windham School Districts to provide this course, say there is an increasing demand for RV workers.

“We have a serious problem in our industry. We need technicians," said the Vice President of Consumer Affairs, Mike Anthony.

"We’re self serving in part, because we need technicians. This opportunity to avail ourselves of those applicants is a wonderful opportunity for us.”

Anthony says the company is concerned about hiring qualified workers, regardless of where they may have gotten their certification.

They've already interviewed two applicants from the program and hired one of them.