The main part of the Cleveland Vocational School (the center) was constructed in 1933 to serve the Cleveland community in rural Kemper County. In 1937, the National Youth Administration began the construction of the two classroom annexes that are on each end of the original building. The NYA is one of my favorite of the New Deal programs. First, the focus was on youth. President Roosevelt said of the program:
I have determined that we shall do something for the Nation’s unemployed youth because we can ill afford to lose the skill and energy of these young men and women. They must have their chance in school, their turn as apprentices, and their opportunity for jobs–a chance to work and earn for themselves.(Federal Security Agency and War Manpower Commission, Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1944, p. 23)
The program provided part-time work for (1) youth who were in school but needed financial assistance in order to continue (ages 16-24) and (2) youth who were out of school, unemployed and in need (16-25). The work included a wide range of public service, such as research, construction of facilities such as schools, landscaping, forestry, and industry and numerous other training and service projects to prepare youth for future employment. When the program closed in 1944, almost 5 million youth had been employed and many of the projects they completed remain extant and in use. For example, the Cleveland school is used as the community center and maintains a swimming pool for the rural area.
In 1940, the Works Project Administration No. 50,085 also improved the facilities at the Cleveland community school. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History does not specify the dates of construction of the now non-extant buildings connected with the school complex, but there were at least two teacher’s houses, a vocational building, and a home economics building added some time after the two classroom annexes.