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JCCS Students Ahead of the Curve With Access to Driver’s Education Program

The simulator looks like something you might see at the local arcade, but it provides students attending the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) with more than just fun and games — it’s helping them learn to drive.

More than 70 students throughout JCCS are participating in the driver’s education program using the new driver simulation systems that were installed last year at eight schools. The course is available to all age-eligible JCCS students.

The simulator has a built-in instructor who teaches 16 lessons covering all aspects of driver training, including road rules and safety, as well as what happens when driving under the influence or driving while tired.

“The course adds fun to the education, gives them a sense of achievement, and teaches them the traffic laws, road safety, driver responsibilities, and overall defensive driving techniques,” said Maria Mujica, career technical education teacher and program analyst. “It gives them confidence and a sense of personal responsibility. And it’s free.”

Access to this program is important for many students who may not be able to afford the course fee or have time to attend if taken outside of school. Mujica said that often the courts also instruct students to take driver’s education and this course helps them fulfill that obligation.

“It was good to learn how to drive. It feels real. It teaches you right from wrong, and you start to understand what is considered breaking the law,” said Samuel, a student at 37ECB. “I also think it's a great opportunity because it’s free, and sometimes we can't afford it. And it's important so that we can get prepared to buy a car and drive to school or work.”

Eight new systems were purchased last year. Eventually, the hope is to get one for each JCCS site. Since the simulators were installed, 40 students have completed training.

Once students complete the course, they are eligible to take the written driver’s permit test and move through the process of obtaining a provisional license once they reach age 16. Mujica said that JCCS often has grant funds to help students pay for DMV fees and behind-the-wheel training, which costs about $200. 

“Getting my driver's license is very important, because it's something that I need in life and I want a car soon,” said Charlotte, a student at 37ECB. “What I like best about the course is the hands-on driving. It makes it so much fun.”

The course has been offered for many years using a keyboard on the desk, which was not as popular or fun, Mujica said. Mujica herself took driver’s education this way when she was a student in JCCS.

“The sense of independence and development into adulthood — that’s important,” Mujica said. “Once they start seeing and maturing, the confidence builds. It makes them really happy. And then they want a job, and then they say, ‘I’m saving for a car.’ It’s good stuff to hear.”

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