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Patti Welder students get head start

By KBell
July 2, 2012 at 2:02 a.m.
Updated July 3, 2012 at 2:03 a.m.

Incoming Patti Welder sixth-graders listen to Willie Pickens, who founded the Destination Success program. The program helps teach students lessons in basic virtues and ethics. Pickens advocates abiding the law, avoiding illegal drugs and working hard throughout life.

Success as a destination meant something different to each of them.

To one little girl, it was being the first female Navy SEAL. To a young boy, it was becoming a gaming technician so he could "make a lot of moolah."

Whatever direction success takes them, they're in it together for now.

"At 11 years old, it's time you know where you're going," Patti Welder's new principal, Richard Wright, said. "Patti Welder Middle School is a step in that direction."

Wright was pumping up his first class of students at Destiny Consulting's Destination Success transition camp for sixth-graders. Thanks to a grant, this is the first year the school has been able to offer a two-week, full-day program for new students.

"I expect Patti Welder never to be the same after this," said Destiny Consulting's founder, Willie Pickens, who also hosted a half-day, week-long transition camp last year.

The camps aim to prepare the middle school newcomers socially and academically. The 122 students attending Patti Welder's camp spend two weeks of their summer taking math, science, social studies, English, career and social skills classes. They navigate their way around the halls and meet classmates from other elementary schools.

If they're not excited after pep talks from Wright and Pickens, students are enticed by an array of prizes, like bikes, hats and college T-shirts.

We want to "make sure all of them leave here with enthusiasm to come to middle school and for them to know they have a support system," Pickens said.

Pickens will be with them throughout the school year, making campus visits, taking students and parents to dinner, and manning a new bullying hotline.

The stability eased the fears of one incoming sixth-grader Qwashawn Thomas, who said he was worried about how older students would treat the younger ones.

"They say there won't be anymore bullying," Qwashawn, 12, said.

He was in science class and had just finished building a circuit that connected a battery to Christmas lights via aluminum foil.

Whereas he'd never learned much about circuits, his classmate, Erica Bosquez, said she was pretty up to date on all they were learning in the classroom.

Something else attracted her to the camp.

"The real reason I wanted to come was for the field trips. It was a free opportunity," she said.

The free camp provided breakfast, lunch, snacks and two trips on luxury charter buses to visit the Museum of Natural Science and the Downtown Aquarium in Houston. Pickens said some students had never been out of the Victoria area, and never ridden in anything fancier than a school bus.

Some students have never received a positive touch, he added, which is why he and his staff are always high-fiving the kids.

On the way to class, Wright made it a point to shake each of the students' hands. He told them they're his first, special class. They'll be entering Patti Welder together.

Now that Erica's made new friends and made her way through the halls, she said she's not as nervous for the start of school in August.

"Also, we know the principal," she said. "It makes me feel I'm really special because the principal says he has a special connection with all of us."



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