The Kentucky Heritage Council, in partnership with Jefferson Community and Technical College, has created an educational program that aims to teach Louisville residents a trade and promote preservation.
The program is called the Samuel Plato Academy of Historic Preservation Trades, named after notable African-American architect Samuel Plato, whose work can be seen around Louisville. The school is located at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.
During the course of a year, students will learn everything from how to rewire a house to plumbing to carpentry.
When the students graduate, they will receive a certificate in historic preservation technology from JCTC and a certificate in historic preservation trades from the Samuel Plato Academy.
“The best value is trying to provide greater access for jobs, greater access for education,” said program director Jim Turner, who used to own a home restoration business in Detroit.
The academy plans to be self-sufficient. It will earn money by offering discounted services to homeowners who need work done on their house and by offering DIY classes.
Each year, students at the Samuel Plato Academy will take the skills they learn to rehabilitate at least one home in west Louisville. The homes will come cheap from the city’s land bank, and after they are renovated, the school plans to sell them for a profit.
“It gives them a live work experience,” Turner said.
The first class of students did not have to pay any fees to take courses at the school. However, that could change for future classes.
The inaugural class consists of 15 people ages 25 to 71.
Student Maya Williamson and her boyfriend William Murrell said they want to use their skills to do odd jobs for people and earn money as they travel.
Robert King, another student, said he’d like to become a building inspector and plans to continue his education at JCTC. He also enjoys seeing dilapidated properties brought back to life.
“I’d just like to build up these neighborhoods, especially in west Louisville,” he said.
In addition to serving as director, Turner is an instructor as well. Fred Aemmer, owner of Floyds Knobs-based custom window and woodworking company Caldwell Sash Co., also teaches at the Samuel Plato Academy.
Turner said he is looking for business people with relevant skills to volunteer to host seminars or take on one of the students as an apprentice.
“The best help is taking on a student as an intern after they complete the program,” he said.
To contact Turner about volunteering with the Samuel Plato Academy, call (313) 574-9073.
Eventually, Turner said he hopes to have multiple classes going through the program and one to two more instructors. That way more people can learn tangible life skills that can help them find jobs.