Achievement via individual determination (AVID) is more than a program in Poudre School District. AVID is a family that has changed the trajectory of so many students’ lives.
“Almost all of my students will be first-generation college students, as I was,” said Chris Lee, a junior AVID teacher at Fort Collins High School (FCHS). If a student goes to college, he said, typically their family members will also want to go to college. And that’s where the power of the program comes in: AVID can impact generations of learners.
AVID is a nationally recognized program that was started to recognize disparities in minorities when it pertains to who goes to college, who stays in college, and who stays in the rigorous courses to be prepared for college. In PSD, AVID exists at select middle and high schools.
At Fort Collins High School, AVID is quickly growing. About 80 students are participating in AVID, and about 80% of all staff are being trained through the AVID program at FCHS. Staff training helps teachers have a common language when instructing students.
The first element of AVID is the elective class. This class can be taken in middle and high school. Students can start AVID in ninth grade and often take the elective their sophomore, junior, and senior year. The typical AVID student has a higher probability of going to college when taking the elective class. An AVID student may have factors that put them at risk of not being college-bound. Examples include a first-generation college student, a family where one parent attended college, or a student with disorganization challenges.
“AVID is a program designed to help students achieve post-secondary education dreams,” said Clair Stiley, AVID co-teacher at FCHS.
“It is geared mainly towards first-generation college students or students that have barriers to getting there (to college),” she said. “However, to me AVID is about family- it is creating a culture in your classroom where your students can support each other and know that they are supported.”
During the elective course, students have the same teacher all four years. This tight-knit community shares the same goal of getting into college and maintaining a certain GPA.
Daphene Alcaraz, a sophomore at FCHS, shared that AVID means a lot to her. “It keeps me organized and helps me look forward to the future,” said Alcaraz, who will be the first college student from her family.
During students’ junior year, they go on college visits and focus on college applications and scholarships. All AVID students apply to at least one four-year college.
“There were about 80 students enrolled in the AVID elective class last year,” said Jennifer Roth, assistant principal at FCHS. “And all of those students applied and were accepted into college.”
Some students did not think they could go to college when they were younger, like Brandon Bright, another sophomore at FCHS.
“I dreaded college because my family could not go to college” he said. “However, now I look forward to the day that I can go to college."
Students choose to take the AVID elective class. In PSD, high schools recruit and promote the program through middle schools, and counselors provide guidance for students who come from a school that did not previously have AVID.
Julian Jones, a senior at FCHS, shared that AVID is a brighter path toward success. She had participated in AVID since sixth grade and will be the first in her family to start college right after high school.
“Sixth-grade was getting us ready and organized for high school,” she said. “Now, high school is getting us ready for college.”
At Lincoln Middle School, AVID was implemented in 2017 and the elective is offered at all three grade levels. Last school year, Lincoln had about 50 students enrolled.
“We have built great capacity around schoolwide AVID and have also trained the majority of our staff members around AVID implementation,” said Penny Stires, Lincoln principal.
AVID provides support for students to develop strong self-confidence and become self-advocates. AVID students are expected to challenge themselves to take at least one, if not more rigorous college-level courses in high school. These could be Advanced Placement, pre-AP, or concurrent enrollment classes through which they can earn college credit.
AVID teaches students how to persevere through obstacles and can use the strategies and tools they learn in the future. Andrew Crosby was an AVID elective teacher for seniors last school year. He journeyed four years with his students through the AVID program.
“It is indescribable to have these students for four straight years,” he said. “It is hard to put into words.
I have watched and mentored them through their ups and downs. They have become my “unofficial” children, my family,” he said, holding back tears.
AVID can change an entire family and community.
Julio Antando, a FCHS senior who has been in AVID since freshman year, said that no one in his family had ever gone to college until his sister did recently. AVID helps explain what college is and how it works. Now, Antando wants to pursue studying physics and chemistry in the future.
“My sister did AVID, and she is now at Colorado State University,” he said. “She said AVID was helpful for her, and she inspired me academically.”
Antando was always passionate about sports. Now, he has learned that there are other careers and opportunities in college, thanks to his sister and AVID.