Many life adventures have happened to Georgetown native Camille Overstreet since she wrote a column for this newspaper, but the most exciting and beneficial just may be E.T.A.
“E.T.A. [Educating Through Action] is the culmination of ideas I’ve had forever,” Camille explained. “Through all of my experiences, I’ve been fortunate enough to really learn first-hand what works for kids and what doesn’t. E.T.A. is an alternative way for schools to handle discipline which is a huge issue in education right now. Suspension rates are up, numbers are disproportionate among various demographics and we have to continuously think of innovative ways to serve our students.
“Right now, many schools work on a tier system. Students who demonstrate Tier III level behaviors need daily interventions, as well as alternatives when consequences are implemented. Detention and suspension are easy ways to try to tackle this problem, but they should be replaced with opportunities to teach and learn.
“That’s where E.T.A. comes in. By collaborating with community resources, we can create alternative to suspension programs (during and/or after school and on Saturdays). We can come in and work with students identified by administrators to set up behavior intervention plans, assign community mentors, and facilitate community service projects. It’s easy to say that someone in the building can do that, but I’ve been on that end and it’s not always so simple. Time constraints, putting out daily fires, and adhering to government mandates seem to take precedence. We have to have meaningful interventions that are implemented consistently if we want to make a difference.”
E.T.A. prides itself on creating and developing programs that are specific to the needs of each school, she said. When a school contacts E.T.A. the initial process involves data analysis and developing what will work best for the school, administrators, teachers and students. Currently, schools can contract out E.T.A. services, which is much more cost efficient than hiring a full-time person who ends up doing multiple duties. E.T.A.’s sole focus is on the student.
“My mother has always said that there is something that God has in store for me to do and I truly believe this intervention service is it,” Camille said. “Over the Christmas holiday, I was listening to Pandora. It wasn’t a gospel station that was playing, but a gospel song came on, ‘Let Go and Let God.’ It really hit home to me at that time that if I get out of God’s way, leave it in His hands, and let go, then things would fall into place. I’ve had so many positive responses and community agencies, schools, etc. jump on board with partnerships and support already. I really believe this is what I am supposed to be doing.
“Lots of things have happened over the years, but one of the most personal things that has motivated me to start E.T.A. involves my daughter. In elementary, Taylor struggled with a few things, but was always a very hard worker, no behavior problems. In fact, her second grade teacher, Mrs. Ellison at Anne Mason, was awesome! She stayed after school and helped her with math. Then, in third grade, her teacher said she asked too many questions and was probably too young to move on to the next grade. I fought that, of course, because I knew those weren’t excuses to hold a child back.
“Finally, in the fifth grade, we found out that Taylor is dyslexic and her rote memory is largely affected by the type she has. Therefore, numbers, math equations, sequencing are more difficult for her. So I’ve been the parent and am the parent who wants to see their child succeed, knowing that sometimes things just have to be set up a little differently for this to happen.”
Camille grew up in Georgetown, but she may be best known for her News-Graphic column. “I started writing my column around 2003,” she said. “Since I began undergrad as a journalism major, I contacted [publisher] Mike Scogin and asked if I could write a column. I loved it! I got so much positive feedback. The column was called ‘Point of View’ because that’s all it was: my point of view.”
Byron Brewer is a former managing editor of the News-Graphic. He can be reached at email@example.com.