TEXAS VIEW: VISD ‘And’ program gives students options for success

THE POINT: Program exposes students to more possibilities to find success in life after graduation.

Remember as a young person when people asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? The answer varied depending on the toy you were enthralled with at the time — firefighter, police officer, Army ranger, fashion model or movie star.

Nowadays, ask a student what they want to do with their future, and they will say be an engineer, a lawyer or game developer.

As the result of a program called “And” at Victoria’s school district, students are learning more about what their options are after high school graduation.

In the program, the school district recognizes no two students are the same and no two students learn the same way.

With the “And” program, the district is working to make sure every student reaches their education goals and that they know what they want to do in life after graduating high school.

The district is so committed to this goal they have introduced the concept to students as young as pre-K.

By first grade students are working in science, technology, engineering and math settings (STEM), learning to use critical thinking skills and solve problems.

The idea is brilliant. Exposing students to the world of possibilities from day one of formal education at levels they can comprehend which expands as they progress through education should only work to benefit the students, the school district and the city as a whole.

The more we can grow the local economy with locally trained residents, the more it improves the city’s growth potential.

In a nutshell, elementary students are exposed to the possibilities and can explore them as they progress through the elementary years. In middle school, the students start to experience the possibilities so when they get to high school, they are better prepared to know which classes they need to take beyond the required core classes.

In high school, students can take dual credit courses and possibly graduate with a high school diploma and a college associate degree. They can take classes through the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program or Career and Technology Institute program and be prepared for careers in health care, computers, cosmetology and welding to name a few.

In many situations, students can graduate from high school with professional certificates that allow them to start their career right after graduation.

Or if they decide they want to pursue a college degree, they are better prepared with their coursework or in some cases already have their associate degree.

“We want every single student, 100% of our kids, to be able to walk across the graduation stage with a high school diploma and something else, so that when they wake up Monday morning after graduation, they’ve got something to do,” school district Superintendent Quintin Shepherd, said recently. “That is our goal, and we’re not going to stop until we get 100%.”

To help accomplish this lofty goal, the district is changing the way it teaches. Three campuses — Shields and Hopkins elementary and Patti Welder Middle schools — are personalized campuses where students learn at their own pace in the classroom setting. The students are in smaller classes and teachers are able to give the students more one-on-one attention, giving students specialized attention in areas they may need more help.

Then at Smith Elementary and Stroman Middle schools, students focus on learning based on STEM concepts. These schools have received grant funding to allow them to focus on STEM learning.

Students from anywhere in the district can sign up to attend one of the personalized learning campuses or the STEM campuses.

Opening students’ minds to the greater options in life early and continuing to encourage them throughout their school careers to find their “And” will go a long way in helping the students find success in life.

Victoria Advocate