Ode to the AVID Program

So, I have recently gotten a job that may be the most fun and most rewarding job that I have ever had. This, I think, has something to do with the fact that it is one of the most worthwhile programs I have ever worked with philosophically, while also being actually really really good, practically, at what it is doing.

From the AVID website: “AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a college readiness system for elementary through higher education that is designed to increase schoolwide learning and performance. The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS) accelerates student learning, uses research based methods of effective instruction, provides meaningful and motivational professional learning, and acts as a catalyst for systemic reform and change.”

What this definition doesn’t tell you is that it is really a program for many of the most shafted students. I am a tutor for the program in a high school in New Mexico. I think there about 80 students in the program at this school and they all applied to be in the program, so they have a commitment to doing the work. But there were basically three criterion that made them eligible for the program: 1) They will all be the first in their family to go to college; 2) They are nearly all from a racial minority; 3) They are all within the lowest socio-economic brackets.

So basically the equation is that poor, shafted kids who want to make something of themselves and their lives apply to be in this program, and once they get in, they work their butts off–they are placed in the most challenging classes that their school has to offer, but they are given the tools and the advantages that often just come along with having college-educated parents who can afford to move their kids along academically. AVID kids are taught study-skills and college-readiness skills, they have tutorials four days a week which are basically study-groups where they work together with each other and a knowledgable adult to answer any questions that have arisen for them in any of their courses. They study for standardized tests, write their college essays, apply for scholarships, and become a dedicated group of each others best supporters.

I can’t even write about this program without choking up. I have a group of students I work with in the program frequently who are all in pre-cal, calculus, and physics in their school. One of the girls in this group is in pre-cal and has never taken physics in her life, but just from sitting in this tutorial day after day, she has picked up a lot from her classmates and yesterday when she was coaching one of her fellow students (who is struggling in his AP Physics class) how to draw a free-body diagram and break down the steps of his problem, I just wanted to start cheering at the top of my lungs.

These kids work their butts off. They have twice the work ethic of any of the other kids I have worked with in nearly 15 years of tutoring. Some of them have been homeless. Many of them are still struggling to learn english after having arrived in this country not so many years back. Their parents can’t help them academically, perhaps aren’t even there because they themselves have to work too much. They have double english with ESL. And yet, they are taking AP Chemistry and Physics and European History. And they are working hard and they are excelling.

One of the teachers put up a poster of where all the seniors in the program are applying to college this fall. The list spanned the local tech school to MIT–where according to the teacher, this particular AVID student actually has a shot of going. It is an amazing and humbling list.

According to the AVID website, again: “AVID now serves over 425,000 students in more than 4,800 elementary and secondary schools in 48 states, the District of Columbia and across 16 countries/territories. The AVID College Readiness System spans elementary through higher education.”

I guess I just wanted to let you all know that this amazing organization exists, but if you want to start an AVID chapter in your own school or donate to them or volunteer with them or teach in their program or help them in curriculum development, I urge you to their website to check it out.



About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
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