VISD ‘And’ Program Gives Students Options for Success | Opinion

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Do you remember when you were young when people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? The answer varied depending on which toy you were passionate about at the time – firefighter, policeman, army ranger, model or movie star.

These days, ask a college student what they want to do with their future, and they’ll say be an engineer, a lawyer, or a game developer.

Following a program called “And” at the Victoria School District, students learn more about the options available to them upon graduation from high school.

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

With the “And” program, the district works to ensure that every student achieves their educational goals and knows what they want to do in life after graduating from high school.

The district is so committed to this goal that it has introduced the concept to students as young as preschool.

In the first year, students work in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, learning to use critical thinking skills and problem solving.

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

The more we can develop the local economy with locally trained residents, the more it improves the growth potential of the city.

In a nutshell, elementary students are exposed to possibilities and can explore them as they progress through the elementary years. In middle school, students begin to experiment with the possibilities. So when they get to high school, they are better prepared to know what classes they need to take beyond the required core classes.

In high school, students can take dual credit courses and eventually earn a high school diploma and a college associate’s degree. They can take courses through the Pathways in Technology Early College High School program or the Career and Technology Institute program and prepare for careers in healthcare, computing, 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 careers right after graduation.

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

“We want every student, 100% of our kids, to be able to get through graduation with a high school diploma and whatever, so that when they wake up on Monday morning after graduating they graduate, they have something to do,” school district superintendent Quintin Shepherd said recently. “That’s our goal, and we’re not going to stop until we get to 100 percent.”

To help achieve this lofty goal, the district is changing the way it teaches. Three campuses – Shields and Hopkins Elementary Schools and Patti Welder Middle Schools – are personalized campuses where students learn at their own pace in the classroom. Students are in smaller classes and teachers are able to give students more individual attention, giving students specialist attention in areas where they may need more help.

Then, at Smith Elementary and Stroman Middle School, students focus on learning based on STEM concepts. These schools received grants to enable them to focus on STEM learning.

Students from anywhere in the district can register to participate in one of the Custom Learning Campuses or STEM Campuses.

Opening students’ minds early to life’s greatest options and continuing to encourage them throughout their academic journey to find their “And” will go a long way in helping students succeed in life.

This opinion reflects the views of the editorial board of the Victoria Advocate.

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