At first glance, an AVID classroom looks similar to any other.
At the front of Julie-Lynn Borquin’s room there are math questions projected on the board. Posters hang on the walls. Students sit at desks.
But unlike many classrooms, hands are up. Kids ask questions. Pencils are moving. Everyone’s engaged.
There are no phones out, no interrupting, and no heads down.
Could this really all be due to AVID?
Short for “Advanced Placement Via Individual Determination,” AVID is a college and career readiness program for students who aren’t taking honors-level classes that helps prepare them for advanced courses and later become the first members of their family to attend college.
According to avid.org almost 90% of students in AVID are underrepresented and almost 80% are from a background of low socioeconomic status nationwide. Students in AVID overcome their life obstacles and think critically and work with others in order to be successful and conquer whatever awaits them.
There are multiple ways for students to join Riverside’s AVID program. Families can learn about it in-person at Riverside events. Riverside teachers and counselors also visit local middle schools, and students’ counselors and teachers can recommend them.
Riverside had AVID over fifteen years ago, when Rebecca Stone became a social studies teacher. She saw amazing results in her AVID classes and knew she had to fight to keep it here.
In 2010 there was an economic downturn and Riverside didn’t have the funding to keep the program. Stone fought to bring it back for years. Without AVID, teachers have had fewer opportunities to teach students skills they will use in everyday life or in college. And students had fewer resources and support systems to prepare them for college.
“Teachers have had to decide what the most necessary content is to teach students, but haven’t been teaching them how to study and learn things by themselves,” said Stone.
In 2019 Stone and then-principal Tonya Williams discussed AVID returning, but their plans were shut down by COVID-19 and the transition into virtual school.
AVID is now back, and there are currently 60 students enrolled in the program. Every year, 60 additional freshmen will join and stay in the program through all four years of high school.
AVID almost returned for the 21-22 school year but was postponed so teachers could receive more training. Some attended an in-person convention in Texas, and others did a hybrid online training program from home.
One of the main reasons AVID returned was Stone’s strong belief in the program.
“[AVID] is going to provide a more supportive learning environment,” Stone said. “It’s going to help more people try more difficult classes and really thrive when they get there.”
The reason Stone is so passionate about AVID is because she knows just how much it can help the Riverside community.
“It will support kids who we know have the ability to go to college but don’t have the structural supports in place,” she said. “Having a community of like-minded peers is really important for students,” said Stone. “They are more likely to feel supported.”
For example, Stone said because of AVID students are more likely to speak up and say “I don’t understand what this teacher is talking about can we go over the notes together.”
The tools AVID uses to support students will help them in their other classes, too, both at Riverside and after high school.
“Some of the skills students need in order to thrive in rigorous classes that colleges want to see on applications are skills that are normally not taught directly,” Stone said. “Students normally figure them out on their own or in middle or elementary school, but not everyone does. That is what AVID helps with.”
Stone does recognize there are other ways to prepare for college and careers.
“There are programs that exist outside of school, such as StudentU, to help students,” she said. “But the challenge is that they are outside the school day, which is something many students can’t do”.
Riverside also tried a ninth grade academy during the 2018-19 school year that incorporated some of AVID’s practices.
“The reason they were choosing that opposed to AVID is because participating in the AVID program is an expensive endeavor.”
But she continued to advocate for AVID due to the fact that it is more widely available and easier to access.
“I really hope that it gets more kids plugged into more classes that will help them see their full potential and actually meet their full potential,” Stone said. “I think sometimes it’s even hard to know what your full potential is if you haven’t seen something that engages you in that way yet.”
Stone isn’t the only person at Riverside who believes in this program. Many other teachers are ecstatic to be involved in it and are confident that it will have a positive impact on the Riverside community.
“A lot of students have parents who want to help but don’t know how,” said math teacher Jordan Nguyen. “[AVID] spoke to me because I am a first-generation teacher. My parents didn’t complete college…If I had the resources that we are trying to provide for some of these students there would have been many more doors that could have been opened.”
Nguyen said teachers understand the expectations colleges have, but don’t always have the tools to help students meet the criteria.
“AVID will help teachers help students,” he said. “That is the whole purpose of the program”
Pre-calculus teacher Julie-Lynn Borquin thinks AVID will help students thrive in high school, too.
“We went to a training this summer and I’ve implemented a lot of the strategies they taught us to help the students work together and be able to help with their writing, even in math,” she said.
With time, Borquin thinks the many techniques she learned will help make these hopes and expectations a reality.
“I hope AVID will help students have more opportunities to attend college that maybe wouldn’t have had that opportunity before,” she said.
Although the school year has just started and the overall impact of AVID for this year is yet to be discovered, teachers are already starting to see little bits and pieces of the program come together and benefit their students. For example, as of Oct. 19 AVID students have received administrative discipline referrals, commonly called “write ups,” at a lower rate than the ninth grade class overall.
“This group of ninth graders have a little bit more of a home base,” said Stone. “They are really engaging in their work and their teachers are reporting these are really strong students.”
Nguyen and Borquin both agree.
“I’ve seen a dramatic attitude change,” said Nguyen. “They are engaged, they bring up different methods. I’ll teach it one or two ways and a student will volunteer a different way.”
“Because students are in this mindset that they are taking the AVID courses, they already have the mindset of wanting to be better and improve,” said Borquin. “They are open to trying, and improving with the new strategies, and just having that mindset has helped them be ready.”
Due to these beneficial changes, and even more changes to come later on, teachers are nothing but excited to be part of the AVID program and can’t wait to see the full impact it has on Riverside later in the year.
“Avid has a halo effect, it just lifts students up so they are more engaged and prepared,” said Nguyen.
“For our school having a culture that supports kids with intentional practices and teaches more skills will cause us to see better outcomes for students, not just for kids in AVID, but all students,” Stone said. “It’s monumental.”