In November, I was invited to experience a training session of AVID supporters at the Gig Harbor YMCA by Erin O’Neill, Peninsula School District director of College, Career, and Life Readiness. It was an eyeopener. Before this, AVID was little more than a collection of letters to me. It translates as Advancement Via Individual Determination.
Peninsula High math teacher Kim Demianiw chaired the AVID YMCA session. She explained that AVID is in its second year at PHS and Key Peninsula Middle School and in its first year at Harbor Ridge MS. Among presenters were Byron Miranda, PHS AVID elective teacher, and Bellarmine High School girls basketball coach Kim Butler who, incidentally, played basketball for Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics and is an AVID volunteer tutor in three different AVID classes.
Bill Lloyd, Communities In Schools of Peninsula volunteer math mentor at KPMS, said he heard of the AVID program and decided to check it out by attending this class.
“I learned students are expected to do the work, and my role is to facilitate the discussion and problem-solving process,” Lloyd said. “I record my observations, take notes for the student presenting, then debrief with the teacher.”
The class is divided into four subject areas: Math, English, Social Studies and Science. Students choose which area according to their particular need.
“AVID helps me prepare for my future academic goals by helping me learn better study habits and organizational skills,” said PHS sophomore Hanna Wroe. “I have become more self-accountable and able to better advocate for myself because of the skills I have learned from Miss Demianiw in AVID. My grades and self-confidence have improved. I knew I wanted to go to college, now I know how I’m going to get there.”
For classmate Ashley Jones, “Being in the AVID program, I’ve learned how to communicate with my teachers effectively, which I wouldn’t have done without AVID. I’ve learned how to take Cornell notes, which work for me. Having AVID as my class elective has really benefited my grades for the better. In the second semester of freshmen year, I got all A’s. Without AVID, I wouldn’t have achieved that. AVID is important and needed for students who aim to go to college.”
To CISP board chair and AVID volunteer tutor Rob Milroy, who participated in the training, “The AVID program supplements students’ academic learning with the social and confidence skills to get up in front of their peer group, succinctly describe their problem, and use the collective learning of a group of six students to find a solution.”
Milroy said he enjoys the give and take with the students with whom he works.
“I pretty much just observe and encourage the kids supporting one another’s problem solving,” he said. “It’s a rewarding experience.”
The concept is rooted in students learning the Cornell Way method of note-taking and reviewing, said Lloyd.
“They come prepared to present a question/problem they need help with,” he said. “As a facilitator, I find it challenging to not blurt out obvious answers/errors, but the students do well at supporting/correcting each other.”
Summing up, Demianiw notes, “AVID is an elective class for middle to upper performing college bound students to teach academic strategies to promote student success. It helps students reach their goal of attending college. Many will be first generation college goers in their families. Curriculum changes as students move through the program’s four years. Freshman and sophomore years are focused on how to be a good high school/college student, teaching strategies on organization, note taking, collaboration/team building, reading and writing. Junior and senior years focus on preparing for college, deciding the right college, preparing for entrance exams, and filling out college and scholarship applications.
All four years, students participate in Tutorial twice a week, a student-led session where students come prepared with a point of confusion from one of their classes. In groups facilitated by adult mentors called “tutors,” students ask inquiry-based questions to help the presenter figure out the answer to their own point of confusion. It is a powerful learning tool students benefit from immensely.
“A great aspect of AVID is the opportunity for students to remain with their peer cohort over the four years of high school and to have another adult, their teacher, in their life navigating some of their toughest years and helping them stay on track to reach their goals,” Demianiw said. “The group of students genuinely becomes a family and relies on each other for more than just academic support.”
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.