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News Item: Homepage

“AVID is like a family”: How AVID prepares students for social and academic success

AVID at Rancho Buena Vista High

Many high school students dream of college, but some face additional challenges to get there. AVID, a program to prepare students for college, started in San Diego high schools in 1980 and grew to include to elementary and middle schools internationally. Vista Unified School District places a high value on AVID, offering classes at all grade levels. “You can start in kindergarten and go all the way up to 12th grade,” says Anne Green, Director of Secondary Curriculum & Instruction and the district’s AVID leader. “Even universities have AVID alumni groups to support former AVID students when they arrive at college.”


AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is designed to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success regardless of their background. The majority of AVID students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and underrepresented groups, yet they outperform their peers in a number of ways, including higher rates of graduating and attending college. 


“We’re looking for students who have the potential and the will to go to college, but maybe don’t have parents who had that opportunity,” says Erica Glennon, Rancho Buena Vista social studies teacher and AVID coordinator. “Some are interested in taking a harder AP or IB class but aren’t sure they’ll have the academic support.”


At Rancho Buena Vista High School, the AVID team provides the support that students need to succeed. “The students come together on their own will and are a like-minded group in their desire to go to college,” says Glennon. “There’s already a peer support group built in from the minute they join.”


AVID graduation at RBVHS
RBVH's 2018 AVID graduates show off their achievements at an award ceremony


Brand new AVID graduates Isabel Ulibarri and Arleth Flores-Aparicio agree. “AVID is like a family. They’re there to support you and give you the help you need,” says Isabel. “They also prepared me for honors classes that I didn’t know I could do.”


Both credit the program for their academic achievements. Arleth’s teachers pushed her to strive for more. “I decided to enroll in the full IB program because of the teachers telling me I can do it,” she says. “In my culture we don’t get a pat on the back for everything we do. It’s hard to want to pursue something that’s greater or that you don’t think you can do.”


Isabel had a similar experience. “I took more AP classes because of AVID,” she says. “English was always my worst subject but I took AP English and passed with a B+. I was very proud of that.” She went on to take more AP classes, including calculus and environmental science. “I loved those classes so much,” she says. “It built my confidence to see that I can do this. I learned to not put myself down and realize that I am able to pass this class.”


Isabel Ulibarri quote


Seeing students grow and gain confidence is one of the most striking things for the teachers involved. “The thing that makes me the most proud is to watch them evolve and gain academic confidence to challenge what they thought was their highest expectation,” says Glennon. “In many cases they get involved in the community and find their leadership voices through the program.”


In fact, community service plays a major role in AVID students’ lives. Isabel started with an internship at Lake Elementary and continued her community service by tutoring students after school and helping with parent events. She also participated in her own Rancho Buena Vista community, hosting fundraisers with the art club and tutoring her peers. Arleth started with Key Club on campus and ended up volunteering with a variety of organizations throughout Vista, many of which she had not had prior experience with. This community service changed her perspective on her hometown.


Applying for scholarships is an important component of a senior’s grade. Both Isabel and Arleth won scholarships to help with the expensive costs of university.


At scholarship night, Isabel won two scholarships totaling $1,500. “I was really proud,” she says, smiling.


Arleth had never before received recognition for academics or her community service. “My family doesn’t understand the benefits of community service and wonder why I work for free,” she says. “But the payoff is getting recognized at school and getting an award. It’s a resume builder.”


Her work did indeed pay off. Arleth won the 2018 AVID Founder Scholarship, identifying her as the top AVID student in San Diego County and earning her a prize of $25,000. “It’s a blessing to see how much my hard work is paying off. I’m seeing the growth and development I’ve had as a student and as a person.” The awards didn’t stop there; Arleth won multiple scholarships totaling over $36,000.


Arleth Flores-Aparicio
Arleth poses with the Social Studies trophy for her contributions to academics and her community.


With their scholarships, both girls have higher education in their future. Isabel will be attending California Lutheran University, with plans to pursue a teaching career. Arleth will attend UC Riverside, with plans for law school.


“Whether a scholarship is $1,500, which is quite a remarkable amount of money and more than the average senior won by a lot, or the AVID Founder Scholarship, it lets them know they’re valued,” says Glennon. “Sometimes when parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, and they see their kids staying up all night doing homework, it doesn’t make sense to them. There’s a lot of pressure on our students to get part time jobs, spend more time with the family, spend less time studying. When they get accepted to college and win these awards it can come full circle for the parents.”


In addition to the financial benefits, Glennon acknowledges the significant social implications of these awards. “The role that these ladies are going to play as successful Latinas is immeasurable,” she says. “Kids are going to see them in positions and say, ‘I can see myself there.’ There are so many powerful and important things about this program. I believe in it with my heart and soul because of these kids. They have individual desires, and we get to be their cheerleaders. It’s a pretty great job.”


Anne Green quote

Isabel and Arleth clearly exemplify AVID’s mission and will go on to do great things. “I want to reiterate from the district level how proud we are of you girls and your colleagues,” says Green. “You are not only doing this for you, you’re setting an example for many years of students that come after you who will say, ‘I, too, can break through these walls. I, too, can achieve greatness.’ That’s what we’re all about.”


Hear all this and more on our latest episode of the WAVEPod podcast.

Posted by: Lisa Contreras, District Admin, Vista Unified School District Published:6/6/18
Audience: Homepage and Homepage