Local kids explain college prep program to superintendents | VailDaily.com

Local kids explain college prep program to superintendents

The local AVID program has grown from a few dozen high school students two years ago, to more than 400 this year in grades 7-12. AVID - Advancement Via Individual Determination – is a nationwide program 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.
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AVON — There’s nothing as inspiring as a high school kid who can stand and deliver.

Today, three kids from Advancement Via Individual Determination, a local college prep program, will explain it to a statewide confab of 150 or so school superintendents at The Westin Riverfront Resort in Avon.

AVID is now preparing 400 optimistic students in the Vail Valley for college. The program started two years ago with a few dozen sophomores from Eagle Valley High School and Battle Mountain High School. Now it serves kids in grades seven through 12.

“This is the first year we have graduating seniors, so it’s a big year for us,” said Mike Santambrogio, who helps run the AVID program.

This means the program will start seeing actual data on graduation rates, dual enrollment classes and scholarships. They already have lots of anecdotal evidence, Santambrogio said.

AVID for the rest of us

AVID is for kids lost in the middle, Santambrogio said.

“The top tier students already have the skills and support in place,” Santambrogio said.

Students from lower socio-economic groups have a long list of resources at their disposal, Santambrogio said.

The expectation is that kids in the AVID program will apply and be accepted to a four-year college.

Maybe they go, maybe they don’t, but they get to make that decision.

“There’s power in telling a university ‘No,’ instead of hearing ‘No,’” Santambrogio said. “Not everyone wants to go to a four-year college. Maybe they want to be an aircraft mechanic. We’ll help them start down that road.

AVID advocates

Teachers and counselors look at their rosters and suggest kids who they think AVID could help. Free and reduced lunch is a helpful criteria, along with several others.

AVID student must be competent across all academic areas, and then they’re subjected to a battery of interviews. Not everyone makes it.

“We had a lot of students who thought it was a magic pill. Saying ‘I’m in AVID and I’ll get a scholarship.’ That’s not necessarily the case,” Santambrogio said.

AVID tends to reflect the ethnic makeup of local schools.

“AVID has become one of the best universal resources to help get more students prepared to create a pathway toward the college and/or career of their choice,” said Greg Doan, Eagle Valley High School principal.

Eagle Valley, for example, has 140 students in the AVID program. Of those, 30 upperclassmen have trained tutors for AVID students and for middle schools.

Presenting the possibilities

AVID is a nationwide program designed to identify students who have the potential to go to college but not the means or a role model that might make it part of what they consider possible.

Often they’re the first in their family to go to school, Santambrogio said.

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,” Doan said. “You surround them with support so they can realize their college dream.”

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 or dual enrollment class.

They meet with 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.

About AVID

AVID 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 and 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 rwyrick@vaildaily.com.