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AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a nonprofit program that enables college access for students who are typically underrepresented in four-year colleges, for average students, and for those who may be the first generation in their family to attend college.
For more than 40 years, AVID has been providing more than 85,000 educators each year with ways to increase academic rigor, create engaging learning environments, close opportunity gaps, and accelerate the performance of historically underserved students. High school seniors who participate in AVID, many of whom are underrepresented in higher education, have higher enrollments rates in two- or four-year colleges and have higher postsecondary graduation rates.
Even with the curveball that 2020 has been for many Americans, AVID continues to provide schools and 2 million students, parents, teachers, and district leaders with educational strategies for success, building lasting community, and helping students develop a blueprint for a future.
Consistency in an inconsistent year
AVID provided an anchor for its educators and students during the pandemic. Jennifer Gloer, an AVID teacher at Mann Middle School, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida, shares, “If you took AVID out of our school district tomorrow, we would unravel. I love that AVID constantly provides us with resources. Having AVID this year and knowing my AVID family is here for me at Mann Middle School and within our district has made all the difference. In an inconsistent year, having the consistency and the community that AVID provides throughout our school has made us so successful.”
With solid modeling and strategies in place, AVID teachers and principals prioritized drawing on the community that the AVID curriculum creates. “We saw that there was definitely a need for us to leverage the AVID relationships that were built and to really wrap our arms around our students, especially during a trying time of separation,” says Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis.
Dante Jones, principal at Mann Middle School, echoes the importance of community. “The bedrock for AVID is connecting with and developing genuine relationships with kids. So, we immediately had to bring together our team and see how we can create that genuine connection in an e-learning environment.”
For Gloer, AVID provided the tools to make her classroom feel comfortable—even through a computer screen. “Particularly this year, there has been a huge response to community. We call it relational capacity. Our students were hungry for community,” she says. “I really feel like AVID lends itself really well to having the kids feel like they have a home.” That feeling of home even helped some of her reluctant students turn on their cameras and connect with her even further. “Having those AVID strategies in place helped me become the teacher that my students needed me to be this year,” she says.
Building community with AVID provided a sense of normalcy for Principal Sabina Mosso-Taylor and her staff and students at Jackson Creek Elementary in Columbia, South Carolina. She says, “Even through the pandemic, students are reminded that they are college and career-bound, to have and keep a growth mindset, and teachers work to empower students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.”
Anna Tori White, an AVID teacher at Kelly Mill Middle in Blythewood, South Carolina, used AVID strategies with her students to brainstorm socially distant ways to continue to engage in community service and stay true to the heart of AVID. “We always remind our students they are part of our AVID family, and we tell them we love them by focusing on building relationships,” she says.
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As with many school districts throughout the country, AVID’s schools also had to manage the challenges of ensuring that each student had proper access to laptops and Wi-Fi at home. “The digital divide is real,” Davis says. “It’s not only about hardware, but it’s also about the availability to have the connectivity. We put out over 60,000 laptops to our students who were in need. We identified those students, we had them prepared, and then we partnered with internet service providers locally to give them 60 days of free internet.”
Hillsborough also provided online tutorials for students and ensured that those tutorials were readily available throughout the remote learning process.
For the students at Mann Middle School, Jones created a drive-thru where students and their parents could pick up laptops and online resources to ensure that they could still be in class. “We didn’t want to say, “OK, if you’re e-learning, you’re not going to be able to take AVID. We ensured that AVID would still be on their schedule, so those systems and structures were kept in place. Then the AVID teacher took it to the next level by ensuring that she was readily available for the students.”
It's the plate
Particularly in a school year with far more moving parts than ever before, implementing AVID’s strategies and building AVID communities with students isn’t just one more thing for teachers to add to an already overloaded schedule. AVID has become a way of life for connecting with students.
Sean Bishton, principal at Muller Road Middle School in Blythewood, South Carolina, says, “The more these skills become part of what our students do naturally, the more successful we have seen them become in life. AVID provides us with the tools we need to provide engaging learning. It is family! My hope for my students during this year is to show them how they can be successful and grow, despite all the challenges we are currently facing.”
Mark Sims, principal of Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, South Carolina, notes that AVID has been a vital tool in building a culture in his school for preparing and exposing students to college and career readiness, rigorous coursework, and building positive relationships. “AVID is an essential part of who we are and what we believe in,” he says. “I heard someone say so eloquently before, ‘AVID is not one more thing on our plate—it is the plate!’”
Superintendent Davis emphasized the powerful benefits of AVID providing new opportunities, particularly for students who may be the first generation of postsecondary graduates in their families. “AVID truly allows those students who are sitting in the middle to learn the necessary skills to be successful. It not only helps them instructionally, but the nurturing cohort of an AVID classroom gives them the right mindset.”
Last year in Davis’ district, the direct results were evident as 86 percent of AVID students in the graduating senior class applied to a four-year college, and 74 percent of those students were admitted to the college of their choice. Even more impressive, 100 percent of AVID students in the Hillsborough County District graduated on time, and 71 percent of them took on at least one Advanced Placement course.
While the outlook for the school year 2021-22 continues to be uncertain, AVID has been and continues to be a safe harbor for educators to hold tight to the proven tools to help them be the kind of professionals they want to be and to continue pushing and inspiring their students to keep their tomorrows within reach.
Leah Lakins is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York.
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