Student and Staff Thoughts on the RAHS AVID Program

Xander Cassavant

Roseville Area High School’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program is probably best known for making RAHS an AVID National Demonstration School in March 2018.

While that seemed to be a huge accomplishment amongst AVID students and teachers, it seemed to not really draw attention from the rest of the school. Possibly due to students not being informed about AVID.

In an attempt to clarify any possible misconceptions about the AVID program, I had a discussion with RAHS admin Ms. Woods, as well as various other students and teachers both involved and not involved in the AVID program.

 

Admin/Teachers in AVID

“The overall goal of AVID is to make sure that our AVID students, as well as school wide, are college ready. Meaning that, making sure that students have access to college, and that happens in a variety of ways, and that’s maybe different for each kid that comes as a part of our program” said RAHS admin Ms. Woods.

While their overall goal is to make us students college ready, there are a few criteria that one has to meet in order to be accepted into the program, “To be in AVID there’s a few criteria that you have to meet. Some of that – not all of it – is being a first generation college student” said Ms. Woods.

The other criteria being: historically underserved in four-year colleges, low income families, and special circumstances such as being raised by a non-custodial family member. According to the district website (isd623.org).

“So we provide those students with access to scholarships, make sure they know what scholarships are available, and take them on college visits so that they can have the experience of what college will actually be like. They all have mentors, so they are connecting with an adult that can talk about their own experience, and kinda help them through the path of getting to college” said Ms. Woods.

RAHS social studies and AVID teacher Ms. Mfalingundi talked a little more in-depth about some specific AVID strategies “We have tutorials twice a week, so students learn how to do study groups, because once they get to college they’re going to have to learn how to study. How to layer their notes through focused note taking, because there’s more to taking notes than just writing stuff down. How to collaborate with peers, as well as other adults through the mentorship programs that we do. We also prepare them by bringing in speakers and taking them to see colleges, we go to the National College Fair, we do a bunch of different job shadows” said Ms. Mfalingundi.

Mr. Ueland, who is also a social studies and AVID teacher talked about a few other aspects of AVID, “I think that family support network is ultimately what kids really talk about when they’re done. I get a lot of students talking about note taking, the writing skills, and organization skills that they gained through AVID. Once they’re in college, I get that feedback back from them that they really appreciated it” said Mr. Ueland.

Social Studies and AVID teacher, Ms. Lyga, went into detail about specific things AVID does in each grade, “Freshman and sophomore year is all about looking at career and college exploration. So getting a solid foundation of ‘what do they want to go to school for’? [and] ‘What are some of their key colleges that they want to go to’? So there’s that piece. But then there’s also building up critical thinking, reading, and writing skills at the same time” said Ms. Lyga.

“Then you branch into your junior and senior year, and it’s about solidifying your top 3 colleges, [and] solidifying your major. You’re going ahead and you’re making career connections, informational interviews, they have career mentors that are similar to the things they’re interested in. They’re working on their scholarship applications, they’re working on their personal essays, [and] they’re working on interview skills. So that it gets to the point where senior year, leading up to October, is when their applications are getting in, and it’s all their scholarship stuff getting written” said Ms. Lyga.

 

Students in AVID

“I think it’s a really great opportunity, just so you can get college prepping experience. Especially since I joined in the middle of second tri last year, I’ve learned a lot, and had a lot of opportunities” said Junior Kaliah Linear.

“It helps students get involved more in their future and getting and understanding for what you can do for college to better yourself and get ready for your future” said Junior Eric Vandenheuvel.

 

Teachers not in AVID

“I think AVID is a really good program to teach you how to school. Like, how to stay organized, study, [and] apply for colleges. I know I was a first generation college student. So I was the first person in my family to go to college and I wish we had something like AVID in my school, because I had no idea what I was doing” said English teacher Ms. Stahlman. “I think AVID strategies are good for all students”.

“I try to use AVID strategies everyday. I don’t always call them out, I don’t say like ‘this is the whatever strategy’. It’s just trying to embed them into what I’m doing so that y’all don’t know that I’m using AVID. Because sometimes it works better that way. Like, if we didn’t tell you ‘this is a really good learning strategy’, and it was just like, ‘here’s an idea of something you could do to become a better student’. Sometimes, teenagers are that way” said psychology and sociology teacher Ms. Mortel.

“Part of what is really great about AVID is, you’ve got a group of students, they have class every day together from 9th grade – or in some cases from 7th grade – up through senior year. If we could recreate that for all students at RAHS, in my brain, that’s the ideal case. Which, would essentially be like having a homeroom. And in that homeroom, you’d build your skills as a student. Not a homeroom where you sit and do your homework.”

“That’s part of, for me, what is so beneficial about AVID. You have this small group of people that hold each other accountable. You have one teacher that’s like ‘this is my go to, I can go to them for help’. What is good with AVID is good for all of our kids. And it would be great if we could do even more of these things for all students” said Ms. Mortel.

“I wish we could all be AVID students. I wish we had the facilities and the money, [so] that all the students could be AVID students” said economics and government teacher Mr. Sanders. “I don’t see a bad thing about AVID at all [and] I’m really glad we’re an AVID school”.

 

Student not in AVID

Unfortunately, I was not able to talk with any freshmen or sophomores for this part.

“I don’t know a lot about AVID, but what I do know is that they help out with college stuff” said senior Ethan Rich. “I think it’s really helpful that they help students with the whole college process and applying for college. Because they know that’s very difficult”

“For the people that use it, I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get into college and figure out their lives a little bit better. I think, overall, it’s a great opportunity for anyone who would love to take it” said senior Shane Basta.

“I don’t personally interact with it a ton, but I think kids are getting help with stuff that they need help with, [so] that’s a good thing” said junior Joe Sanders. “I really like the notes. I know Cornell Notes, not everyone loves them. But I think AVID encourages note taking, and that’s what’s helped me in school”.

 

Constructive Criticism

Senior Drew Olson, and junior Kaitlyn Baker had some constructive criticism for the AVID program.

“I think AVID is good. It helps a lot of kids, but I also think that the restrictions to get in are a little bit much. Because there are a lot of “grey area families” that have only one parent that went to college, or who make just above the amount of money to where they still need the help but they don’t technically qualify” said Baker.

Baker continued, “I think the Cornell notes are helpful and they do work for some kids, but they also don’t work for some kids. It’s important to introduce that style to everyone, so that if it does help them they can use it. But I think that they enforce that rule too strongly, because it simply doesn’t work for some kids. And when they’re forced to do it they aren’t learning as effectively”.

Drew Olson did not have a lot to say, however, he did say this, “Probably the way we take c-notes. It is not helpful, it is a bit unnecessary” said Olson.

I have learned a lot from listening to various people comment about AVID, it seems like those not involved in AVID do not fully understand what it is that AVID does and why they do what they do. Perhaps someday we can involve more students in the AVID program (only if they want to be in it). Because it seems like AVID does a lot of things that could help a student through their time at Roseville Area High School.