Deborah Mitchell, 21st Century Program Coordinator for West Orange Cove Independent School District (WOCCISD), has been working with the staff of all three campuses and volunteers in the community to enrich the lives of the students at WOCCISD.

The 21st Century Program is an after school program that is offered year around to help increase school attendance, decrease drop-out and increase the opportunity for academic success. During the school year, students meet Monday through Friday. The elementary school students meets from 2:45 to 6:15 p.m. and the middle and high school campuses meet from 3:45 to 7:15 p.m.

This year, 270 students from all three campuses have elected to participate in the program. The 21st Century Ace Program is in it’s third year at WOS and is a free program available to any student from Kindergarten to 12th grade at WOCCISD.

This program utilizes four components to help the students receive the skills they need to be successful in regular school. The four components, which are implemented on all three campuses, are:


 These tutorials are done by certified teachers to get teachers on the campus so that the tutoring will align with the day school.

“Our goal is to make sure that we allow creative lessons because if students have gone to school all day, then they would not want to participate in the sessions,” Mitchell said. “We’re in-line with the day school, but we’re creative, innovative and we individualize.”

A web-based tutoring program for math and science is offered for the students. Homework assistance is also offered for all students in the program.


Dance lessons, cooking, filming, karate, the junior docent program, Shangri La tours, chess team and choir are offered to the students. The junior docent program, which is only offered to high school students, works with the Stark Museum and allows the students to go to the museum to receive training on how to be a junior tour guide.

“The enrichment piece is very important because it provides the opportunity for experiences that children would not be able to afford, sometimes it would not be a priority and sometime would not happen,” Mitchell said.

All enrichment activities support academics and offered to students from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

“The students involved in the docent program were proud of themselves because they were able to talk about art, art history and they conducted themselves as professionals,” Mitchell said.

College and Career readiness

WOS partners with Workforce Solutions during the summer to provide job opportunities to the students. Professionals are also brought in during the summer to talk about job training and college opportunities. They also visit different colleges. During the school year, students are encouraged to mentor other students.

“We have many partnerships with the community,” she said. “Community Christian School has many volunteers that volunteer on campus. We have agency folks that come on campus to training exercises with our parents. Lamar Criminal Justice Society Students are volunteers for our program, mentoring our students. Our experienced workers, with the Workforce Solutions, come out and volunteer every day. We have a variety of volunteer opportunities, a variety of agency partners.”

Engineers from Invista and Dupont and seniors 65 and older volunteer their time to help work the students.

“We want as many volunteers as we can get, especially those who have a unique skill that they would like to share with the students,” Mitchell said. “Anyone who wants to volunteer needs to either see Mrs. Mitchell or go to the individual campuses and complete a Partners In Education (PIE) form. A background check will be done and volunteers will be trained.”

Parental Support

 Parents are encouraged to take part and actively support not only after school but day school.
“We provide counseling, job referrals, and other agency referrals to parents,” she said. “We make home visits. We do meet with the parents and call them several times. We want the parents to know what the students are doing. We do what we can to support parents in supporting their children in regular school.”

“We feel as though we have a program that is not only meeting the needs of the students academically, socially, individually, emotionally and physically, but we also feel that we have a program that is meeting and combating some of the negatives in the community,” Mitchell said.

“I can tell you that the ones that consistently attend show a difference in behavior, they submit their homework,” she said. “We’re hoping to see an increase in test scores. This program is not a test preparation program, it is a skills building program.”

Mitchell and the site coordinators for each campus meet with the principals throughout the year to review student’s grades, review test scores and talk about their behavior.

“We see as much of character changes as we do grade changes. I believe that if we do the character changing, that will enhance the grades,” Mitchell said. “They have to follow the same school rules as far as behavior. We’re hoping the activities we provide for them will detour a negative behavior.”

The students have given back to the community by going to local nursing homes to visit the elderly, they peer mentor other students  and they hope to be able to participate in Habitat for Humanity.

“The most vital part of the program is that the community embraces the program,” she said. “This is not just a program for the school; it is a program that the community can be involved in and support.”

“All of our partnerships are very vital to us,” Mitchell said. “Our teachers, our regular day staff….we could not have a successful program without them. Our principal, custodian, transportation department, food service department all support us.”

The food service department offers snacks and drinks for every student in the program everyday. The program also partners with Southeast Texas Food Bank to offer a hot meal to elementary school students Monday through Wednesday. In January, hot meals will be offered to middle school students as well.

Transportation home is provided for the students as well.

Mitchell has already heard many great things from the parents of the students and hopes that this program will become a permanent fixture at WOS.

About Nicole Gibbs

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