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Program works to ease transitions into secondary grades (video)

By Carolina Astrain
July 27, 2013 at 2:27 a.m.

Placing his hand over his heart, Francisco Rodriguez recites the Pledge of Allegiance during the VISD summer graduation services of Destination Success at Stroman Middle School.

Destiny Hodge's straw-yellow hair was tightly wrapped into a bun as she and her fellow summer camp mates walked into their future middle school gymnasium.

At the end of Destiny's fifth-grade year, the 11-year-old's school called her mother and recommended she take part in a 10-day camp organized by Destiny Consulting, an education consulting company based out of Houston.

The summer camp is part of a yearlong transition program for incoming ninth- and sixth-graders.

Destination Success started out as an idea by consultant and business owner Willie T. Pickens, who saw a need for easing the transition into challenging grade levels.

For the 2013-14 school year, the Victoria school district purchased the program's yearlong retention services for $449,000, which came out of the district's state compensatory education fund, said Diane Boyett, VISD's communications director.

"We started this with an eighth- to the ninth-grade transition camp," Pickens said. "The purpose for that is to give a kid a solid foundation during the summer, then give them support during the whole school year."

From problems at home to being able to get food and clothing for school, Pickens said his program helps with various aspects of a student's life to keep them from dropping out.

The district's dropout rate for students who did not complete high school within four years was 9.2 percent, according to the Texas Education Agency's Academic Excellence Indicator System report from 2011-12.

Parents looked on as students got lined up to get their diplomas at the Stroman Middle School ceremony.

Class valedictorian Michael Avila, 11, and salutatorian Eli Estrada, 11, were both presented with red bicycles during the commencement program.

"I know how to write poems now," Michael said, while gripping a sticker-laden red folder on his lap. "I'm really excited about the sixth grade."

Madison Foreman held her 1-year-old son snug in her right arm as she cheered on Destiny with the other.

While babysitting Destiny this summer, Foreman said she's enjoyed watching the transformation.

"There's such a huge change in maturity when a kid goes from fifth to sixth grade," Foreman said. "This has been good for her because she's been able to start working on her social skills."

At the close of the ceremony, Foreman embraced the beaming graduate.



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