With students the focus of their efforts, the Port Arthur Independent School District is teaming up with the nonprofit organization Save Our Children to help provide a richer environment in which children can learn.
The program is in the fledgling stages in PAISD with Booker T. Washington Elementary to be used as a pilot school as S.O.C. expands its reach into south Jefferson County.
Booker T. Washington Principal Cynthia Jackson said the school is ready to learn anything S.O.C. founder the Rev. J.D. Roberts can teach teachers about the students they see on a daily basis.
“They will learn more about their students,” she said. “They will learn about cultural diversity; it’s not just about race – it’s about their background, their values, their morals. It will help them with understanding.”
As for the students, Jackson said the key term to keep in mind is “exposure.”
“For the students, this means exposure – to go onto college campuses, take part in camps,” she said. “It is key to learning because they will be exposed to new things and ideas.
“I’m honored that we were selected as the starting school. I feel really happy for our children to have this kind of opportunity.”
Roberts said he is excited about the pilot program and hopes both he and the teachers at Booker T. Washington learn as much as the children do.“I have been going into the projects for quite a while around here,” Roberts said. “But one thing I have learned is the teachers have to be a part of it. They have these kids all the time, sometimes more than their parents do.
“I find ways to enhance their minds to think, but I need help to do it. If we take the time to show love and affection to our kids, and understand that we’re human, too, a lot can happen.”
Roberts said as S.O.C. has expanded over the years since its founding in 2003, enrollment has skyrocketed and for that reason, teachers are the key to touching the lives of the students.
“We’re in this together,” he told Booker T. Washington teachers. “Last year, I had 1,200 children enrolled. This year, it was 5,400. I personally can’t really reach every one of these kids, but with your help, we can.”
Judge Randy Shelton also said he felt teachers were an important factor in helping children throughout Jefferson County.
“A lot of times, you’re the most consistent thing in children’s lives,” Shelton told the teachers.
Lamar athletic coordinator Tic Price also emphasized the importance of a support system for children and offered to bring in student athletes to speak with students.
To get the partnership started, students in third, fourth and fifth grades at the school will have an opportunity to take part in a Christmas essay contest sponsored by S.O.C. Roberts said the topic of the essay will be what Christmas means to them, and the winners will receive bonds in their name.Jackson said the school plans to have an additional holiday festival this year at the school that will help bolster participation in S.O.C. at the school. Parents will have the opportunity to receive information about S.O.C. and how it makes a difference, as well as enroll their child in the program.According to Roberts, S.O.C.’s venture into the elementary is just step one of many to come.
“We want to share our curriculum and put our minds together to advance these kids,” he said. “It will spread like a wildfire when they get to see what’s coming for their children.
“With so much negative coverage in Port Arthur, it’s nice to have something positive to report.”