AVID: Becoming A Family One Stranger At Time


THE DEFINITION for ‘avid’ reads: “Having /showing a keen interest in, or enthusiasm for something.” However, there’s more to ‘avid’ than meets the eye. When Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) was officially founded by Mary Catherine Swanson in 1980, she wanted to identify important skills that were needed for students in order to succeed at college level.

In doing so, Swanson incorporated components of philosophy, academic reading/writing skills, and adviser assistance that should be developed in high school and used later in college. As AVID grew, Swanson piloted this program at Clairemont High School in San Diego during 1980, and the program helped children from families who were in poverty and those unprepared about college. It soon progressed to other schools in different states, as stated on the avid.org website.

Now AVID is a club in most junior high and high schools that’s teaching students to be ‘college-bound.’ While in AVID kids learn habits like: taking Cornell notes that help the student understand them after note-taking, becoming organized by using a planner/binder, and initiating tutorials with their peers in same classes. Members also learn about what it takes to succeed in college and ways to pay for it.

Depending on some schools, students can join as early as seventh grade. Some members reap the benefits instantly and others realize the helpfulness later for instance, “In seventh and eighth grade I had bad grades. I didn’t think that AVID really helped. But in ninth and tenth, I realized that my grades started to improve, that’s when I knew that I wanted to be in AVID,” Leslie Galicia (10) said.

Although AVID sounds just like any other regular class, AVID does some activities that those classes don’t. Granger’s AVID holds socials every quarter. These socials range from pool parties to pizza parties to visiting feeder schools to connect with them. These are held for members and anyone who’s interested in AVID or anyone who simply wants to come, and the best part is there are no parents. Those socials are the usual school party.

When there’s a holiday coming up, AVID gets in the holiday spirit. Last year, Granger’s AVID club held a pumpkin-carving event to get in the mood for Halloween. AVID also holds a ‘Parent Night’ where the parents and students mingle. The members show their family how AVID helps them become successful and college-ready students.

“What I like is that AVID brings us closer and helps us to understand each other better.” Isabel Hernandez (10) said.

The benefits of being in this program come in different ways. “It teaches you that the bad neighbors in the neighborhood can get into good careers,” Derrick Rosas (9) said.

This program can have members start realizing that sometimes their effort isn’t enough. “It helps me realize what I need to improve”, Alyssa Martinez (9) said.

AVID may seem just for students, but it also helps the teachers. Teachers also learn about AVID principles and reflect on what they did during their college years. Mr. Schmeling told how being in AVID opened his eyes. “I realized that sometimes AVID can be harder than other classes at times, but to have an opportunity to go to college takes a lot of hard work. It’s one thing to say you’re going to college, but another thing to be successful in doing it,” he said.

These teachers enjoy working with AVID students. “To see that lightbulb moment and see the student get excited — it’s really hard to describe, but it’s that ‘aha’ moment,” Schmeling said. Students appreciate the time that AVID teachers put in making sure that members succeed.

During the AVID process, members and teachers become a big family and push each other to the limits to reach the goals for which AVID was created. With each consecutive year starting from freshman year students improve from learning basic AVID principles: note taking and reading skills. Then they progress to writing scholarship applications and applying for colleges in their senior year.

Although these skills are learned through the years and rewarded with having a guide to undergo the strenuous work of college, there’s one more reward. Successful AVID participants receive a yellow cord to wear at graduation to display their hard work on one of the most important days in their life.