AVID paves a path to higher education

Blakely Sanders (from left), Mona Swanson and Nick Torres are all involved in the AVID program at Bremerton High School.  - Patrick McDonough/Staff photo
Blakely Sanders (from left), Mona Swanson and Nick Torres are all involved in the AVID program at Bremerton High School.
— image credit: Patrick McDonough/Staff photo

With more students seeking higher education in America, negotiating a path to college can be a challenge, and local students are no exception.

Recent statistics by the United States Department of Labor show that 68.3 percent of students who graduated high school in 2011 enrolled in colleges or universities with statistics rising over the past decade.

This trend increases competition for positions at institutions, and like other schools nationwide, many local schools embrace a program designed to assist young people overcome obstacles and achieve their goals of higher learning.

AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a local program with nationwide roots that offers students college readiness instruction and is designed to increase school wide learning and performance.

The AVID College Readiness System seeks to accelerate student learning through research based platforms and is designed to provide meaningful and motivational professional learning opportunities for young people.

One of the goals of AVID is to take students that may not see themselves as college bound and help them with study skills, experiences and navigating through unfamiliar systems and get them ready and competitive for college applications.

Mona Swanson, coordinator of the program in the Bremerton School District, said the AVID program is for students who have demonstrated a strong academic base but are not always producing grades reflective of that.

She said that although the program is not necessarily focused on students who are struggling, it is often focused on students who might not see themselves as college bound.

“Avid is for all students, but especially those who might be first generation college or come from an otherwise challenged environment,” she said.

In the Bremerton School District, the program begins with seventh-grade students and sets aside one elective class per grade level. The classes focuses on skills such as note taking, study skills, and other basic educational skills.

During students’ junior and senior years, they also begin learning skills Swanson said were “college knowledge” or skills that help prepare the students for entering colleges and universities, such as deciding on an institution of higher learning, the application process and navigating funding.

The program offers tutors to young people including those who have completed AVID training in high school and gone on to higher educational facilities.

Swanson said this element of the program helps young people through interaction with students who are where they want to be.

In the program, students are encouraged to bond with one another as well as tutors, and the term “AVID Family” is one that is often heard in the classes.

“The kids see themselves as a tight knit family,” she said. “They learn from one another through that interaction.”

The program also helps throughout the student’s college career. Students can make contact with instructors at their high school from college with questions about changing majors or a host of questions.

“We offer help throughout their entire college career,” Swanson said adding that she has seen students become AVID tutors in local schools while attending college.

Teaching young people how to give back to the community is another goal of the classes. Although students are not required to engage in community service, the program teaches community and school involvement as well as making better choices outside of school.

Nick Torres is a 10th grade student currently involved in the AVID program who said he has always had a desire to go to college from his family, but he has been able to better realize that vision with help from the program.

“It helps you open up and expand your vision for the future,” he said. “It shows you what it actually takes to make it in college.”

Torres plans to continue in higher education and ultimately work as an anesthesiologist.

Another student currently in the program is Blakely Sanders who is also a 10th grader at Bremerton High School.

Sanders said she had not given college full consideration until she enrolled in the program.

“I see myself more determined to go to college now,” she said. “I am always looking around at colleges now and more interested in everything.”

Sanders said she enjoyed the interactions with tutors and tours of other institutions, which are a part of the AVID program.

Swanson said students have the opportunity to visit colleges and universities such as Gonzaga University, Washington State University and Whitman College among others.

Sanders said interacting with actual college students offered information such as what it takes to be successful in a real world environment and how to meet the challenges of living alone for the first time and other social pressures.

“You learn everything you need to do to prepare yourself for college,” she said.


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