Destination success: Middle schoolers' fears alleviated by camp

Jervasie Phillips, a teacher with Destiny Consulting, works with a group of incoming sixth-graders who will attend Patti Welder Magnet Middle School. The class helps prepare students for middle school and challenges them to think and excel at their studies.
  • ABOUT THE SUMMER CAMP

  • This is the fourth year Destiny Consulting has hosted the transition summer camp at VISD.

    The camp was held at all four middle schools and at both high schools.

    The program includes not only the camp, but also follow-up throughout ...

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  • ABOUT THE SUMMER CAMP

    This is the fourth year Destiny Consulting has hosted the transition summer camp at VISD.

    The camp was held at all four middle schools and at both high schools.

    The program includes not only the camp, but also follow-up throughout the year, which founder Willie Pickens said helps bridge communication between the school, students and parents.

    A representative from Destiny Consulting will call each parent twice a month to inquire if and in what area a student is having problems. Pickens will work with the school to address each individual's problems.

    Parents are invited to a dinner twice a semester at which Pickens provides tips on how to communicate with teachers, administration and kids.

    Students who stick with the program through high school can take part in etiquette training, which is put to the test during Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at area restaurants. Pickens also takes them to a Houston Rockets game each year.

First they were Rhodopis, the Egyptian version of Cinderella. Then, they were infants, determined to take their first steps. In just a few weeks, they'll be middle schoolers.

It was the last day of the VISD Destination Success Summer Transition Camp, and students at Patti Welder were learning to make real-life connections to the things they were reading.

"I don't teach reading and writing. I teach creativity and thinking," said Jervasie Phillips, their language arts teacher. "When they begin to think globally - when they begin to think period - they can see, I am part of a bigger picture."

About 60 soon-to-be sixth-graders got a jump start on the school year by attending the week-long camp hosted by the Houston company, Destiny Consulting. This is the fourth year of the camp, which aims to bridge learning gaps and provide encouragement that will follow the students to graduation.

"A lot of them had a lot of anxiety, and now they feel better because they met the principal . they know where the cafeteria is. They're feeling better about themselves academically," said the company founder, Willie Pickens.

Simply navigating the school grounds seemed to be one of the most daunting tasks for a lot of incoming students. But not only were they able to breeze through the hallways, they also learned skills that made them feel more prepared for middle school.

For Madison Cavazos, it was learning how to multiply decimals.

For Gabbie Gomez, it was learning how to take notes.

The students also took careers and social skills classes, which helped them determine how to make and choose new friends, they said.

"Somebody (who's) trustworthy, somebody who's going to accept you for who you are, who's nice," were all part of Gabbie's criteria.

The two girls came from separate elementary schools but were finishing each other's sentences by the end of their middle school camp.

Gabbie, 11, began, "This is going to make us a little bit..."

"Not shy," Madison, 12, helped.

"And more ahead of other kids," Gabbie finished.

Phillips said she was there to foster that self-esteem. She wanted to reiterate to the kids they have everything it takes to graduate high school and college.

"They get the idea that smart kids are smart because they're born that way. That's not the case," she said. "If you show up, listen and ask the right questions, you'll persevere.

Minutes later, Phillips tottered around her classroom, acting out the infant taking its first steps. The kids laughed, and their eyes never strayed while she connected the humor to a moral lesson.

"You'll fall. Guess what. You get up, and you try again," Phillips said. "You keep trying, you'll get better. You quit, you'll fail."