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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Creating the leaders of tomorrow starts with educating them today.

Operation Xcel is focused on preparing children for the 21st century.

The organization in Guilford County serves students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade.

Six sites offer summer programs, after-school programs and mentorship opportunities to 300-400 students in an academic year.

Executive Director Charlene Gladney says the results are real. “We had one child that came to us in the sixth grade reading at a second-grade level. After one year of after-school and summer programs, she progressed through four years of learning in that one year going to a sixth-grade level. We had another example of a student that wanted to drop out. She used to say ‘Lady G when I get 16 I’m dropping out of school.’ Well she went on to finish high school and she is now in college,” Gladney said.

But the focus isn’t just on academic achievement.

Through the support of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Operation Xcel also works to ensure children’s social and emotional development to help participants become life-long learners.

They also know student success is tied to family success.

“We’ve had family members through our family engagement that have learned English. We’ve had family members go back to school themselves and pursue degrees and get degrees,” Gladney said.

Students like seventh-grader Zoie McDowell-Gilmore say their experiences make them more confident.

“I get to interact with other people in learning things that will impact my grades in school,” McDowell-Gilmore said.

She got involved with Operation Xcel through her elementary school teacher, Regina Jackson.

Jackson is now a Site Director with the program.

She says she gets to see her students make progress year to year. She also believes that the focus on building strong connections is what makes this program truly special.

“We are kind of like a family. They really get to know me and I get to know them in the classroom and outside,” Jackson said.

You can find more about Operation Xcel on their website.