EAGLE COUNTY — When a graduating senior won a full scholarship to Colorado Mesa University last year, one of his first questions was, “How am I going to get to Grand Junction every day?”
He had no idea what it meant to go to college.
Enter AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — a nationwide program started in Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain this year. It’s designed to identify students who have the potential to go to college, but not the means or the model that might make it part of what they consider possible.
Often they’re the first in their family to go to school, said Hope Moses, a Battle Mountain language arts teacher who’s handling her school’s AVID program. Ethnicity can play a role, but it can be almost any student with college potential who might not see college as a possibility.
“This class is a course that will provide support and encouragement to students with a common goal — college,” Moses said.
Students are selected after recommendations from teachers and a battery of interviews. They’re typically the first in their family to go to college, a minority, economically disadvantaged and within a low B to a low C GPA.
AVID is a college readiness class. It’s not a remedial program.
“This is not just us saying ‘You have a low GPA; we’re going to fix you.’ This is about identifying kids with college potential and surrounding them with the support they need,” said Greg Doan, Eagle Valley principal.
“You surround them with support so they can realize their college dream,” Doan said.
Give a little, get a lot
It’s an elective class, so they’re giving up something they want for something they see they need. They learn writing, organization, how to search for colleges and the money to attend them. They have to sign a contract, and they have to be enrolled in an at least one advance placement/dual enrollment class.
“Some of them truly have never been shown how to take notes in class,” Doan said.
Among other things, the kids learn the Cornell note taking method. They learn to take notes, they review and rework those notes, and generate questions from those notes.
They’ll have tutors come in once a week. The tutors are not supposed to give them the answers. They’re there to guide them to the right answers.
It’s not just about getting to college, Doan said.
They bring in community members and business leaders. Then there are site visits, beginning with Colorado Mountain College, then branching out to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Colorado in Boulder.
“When they walk onto a college campus, they have the skills they need to succeed,” Doan said. “Most of these kids have no concept of college and what’s involved.”
It’s the first year for both programs. Battle Mountain has 23 sophomores in the program; Eagle Valley has 27. They’re sophomores, selected last year when they were freshmen.
The goal is to add a class each year so in a few years, more than 100 kids from each school are cycling through the program.
AVID was started small in 1980 by Mary Catherine Swanson, then-head of the English department at San Diego’s prestigious Clairemont High School. Federal courts had ordered the city’s schools desegregated, bringing large numbers of inner city students to suburban schools. While applauding the decision, Swanson said she wondered how they would survive at academically acclaimed Clairemont High.
Swanson began with 32 students. AVID now reaches more than 700,000 students in more than 4,900 schools and 28 postsecondary institutions in 46 states and 16 other countries/territories. Students range from elementary school through college.
Of the 33,204 AVID seniors in 2012, 98 percent graduated high school, and 90 percent of those headed to college — 58 percent to a four-year college and 32 percent to a two-year institution.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.