Mitchell Guidance Center helps students learn from choices
By Diane Boyett
Feb. 15, 2015 at 9:36 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2015 at 12:31 a.m.
In April 1902, a school opened on Commercial Street in what is now considered downtown Victoria.
The people of Victoria had made a commitment to public education four years earlier when the Mid-Coast residents voted to create the Victoria Independent School District. The opening of what was then called Central High School was a major step in providing a consistent source of educational excellence for the growing community.
Fast forward to 2015, and the building is still providing a location to provide students with outstanding opportunities to grow and build a foundation toward being productive, successful adults.
The Mitchell Guidance Center serves a population of secondary students who have made bad choices in their school careers. While students are assigned to the disciplinary alternative education program, they continue to receive instruction in their academic areas. But alongside the academics, the students are provided guidance in how to overcome their past mistakes and move forward.
Mitchell Guidance Center Assistant Principal Yolanda Torres commented recently, "sometimes great kids make very bad choices; sometimes over and over." But thanks to the Mitchell team and committed volunteers from the community, the rate of students making a return trip to Mitchell has dropped significantly in the last year. In the 2013-14 academic year, the first semester, 34 students who had been placed at Mitchell returned for a second placement. This year, the number has dropped to only 19, further proof that the work of the staff and volunteers is truly working.
Achieving that decrease is a testimony to the power of caring.
Becca Garcia works with students from across VISD on attendance issues. Housed at Mitchell, she works very closely with the students assigned to the school in helping them develop social skills to function in society, as well as overcome obstacles to success when they return to their home campus.
She has worked to pull together a great support team of volunteers in the community who are serving as mentors and role models to the students. Through the Victoria Junior League, female students participate in Project Esperanza that offers classes in everything from etiquette to self-respect. The classes are taught by professionals in the community. Star Family Programs offers an anger management program for students as MidCoast Family Services provides counseling for substance abuse and family dynamics matters. One Retreat, offered through the Woodhouse Day Spa, offers students a weekend of great activities, team building and serious discussions about making the right choices. Impact offers one-on-one mentoring. The semi-pro football team Victoria Texans even have players coming to the school as speakers and mentors to students.
There are other people like John and Lita Papillion in the community who spend time with students and provide resources in support of their needs.
One of the teachers from the Career and Technical Institute spends the last part of their school day at the guidance center working with students to provide guidance and building connections. As a teacher, John Hobizal instructs in auto collision repair. At Mitchell, he works with students in repairing the damage of poor choices.
The connection building does not end when a student returns to the home campus. Staff members from the school continue to make contact with their former students to make certain they are attending school and having the tools necessary to be successful in a regular school setting and in the community.
Helping students to succeed both academically and behaviorally is an awesome task on campus led by Principal Tedrick Valentine. One of the staff members said, "At the end of the day, it is about choices. Ultimately, it is up to them (the students)."
The staff and volunteers at Mitchell are passionate about their jobs. It is a choice they, as adults, make each day. We celebrate their dedication.
Diane Boyett is the communications director for Victoria school district. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.