Knights of the Guild teaches students

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Sept. 17, 2012 at 4:17 a.m.

The brown in Persephanie Cano's eyes popped from the blue contacts she was wearing Monday morning.

Her wide eyes followed the horses as they galloped back and forth in the Victoria Community Center arena.

Wielding a U.S. flag, Victoria native Cass Garcia, dressed as a Texas Ranger, rode into the arena on a calico-patterned horse.

The equestrians performed for about 1,500 middle-schoolers Monday morning as part of EarlyAct FirstKnight, a character-building program by the Knights of the Guild.

Garcia is a member of the guild, which is a nonprofit organization based in San Antonio dedicated to instilling good character, civility and ethics in students.

The guild was contracted by the club and school district to enhance the experience with cowboys, knights and horses.

"It's a very surreal experience," Garcia said. "The influence this program has had over Victoria is something that nobody expected."

This is the program's fourth year at the Victoria school district, and the first year that middle schools were invited to participate.

The inclusion of Stroman Middle School and Patti Welder Middle School was something VISD's new superintendent Robert Jaklich thought was necessary.

"It's a wonderful start to the year for these students," Jaklich said.

The tab for a guild show is about $2,500, and for the yearlong in-school program the guild charges about $5,500 to $8,000 per school.

"They get daily curriculum instruction for that, six knighting ceremonies, a parent-education seminar and more," said Knights of the Guild CEO Randall Parr. "The price varies on distance and size."

For Stroman and Patti Welder, the guild charged VISD and the Victoria Rotary Club about $4,590 - $600 of which was covered by area Rotary clubs and the leftover by the school district and parent teacher organizations.

"Money really isn't the big issue; it's about what the program does for the students," said northside Rotarian Hugh Hanes.

The program has expanded to six elementary schools and two middle schools in VISD during the past four years.

Lisa Cortez, principal at Stroman Middle School, said middle school is the time when students are most vulnerable.

"Some kids don't know how to express their differences with each other," Cortez said. "Hopefully, this will give them tools to make better decisions when dealing with conflict."

Persephanie said she was happy to see women riders in the guild.

"It's nice to know how powerful women can be," the Stroman eighth-grader said. "We need to know more about this sort of stuff."



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