AVID aids students through mentoring

By Amber Abunassar – [email protected] – Staff Writer | Feb. 4, 2014 |
Advancement Via Individual Determination is a global non-profit organization that helps students advance through school more easily.
AVID website’s says the program is aimed at empowering first-generation students. AVID helps students who come from a lower socioeconomic background. This program also helps minorities, underrepresented groups, and students of color.
Deborah Miles, director of the Center of Diversity Education at UNC Asheville said there are 100 AVID chapters in North Carolina.
“It is an academic class that students can take through middle and high school,” said Rhonda Alamour, a senior literature and teaching licensure student from Asheville, “but some schools are experimenting with elementary schools, and UNCA is experimenting with college.”
She said students give up an elective class such as gym or art in exchange for the AVID class.
Alamour said students learn a variety of skills, but college preparation is the number one priority in the AVID program.
“They visit colleges, they learn about organization skills, and a variety of other skills,” said Alamour, “so when they get to high school they do things like college applications and scholarship applications.”
Alamour said her role with AVID is tutoring. She volunteers with a small tutor group twice a week and helps students with work they did not understand in class. Instead of giving out answers, she asks them questions about their problems, which helps develop critical thinking skills.
She said students have to advocate and problem-solve for themselves. They have to learn the skills to be able to develop those skill sets.
“It’s forcing them to use their resources and makes them really apply their critical thinking skills,” Alamour said, “for them to use their notes, to take better notes, and all those sorts of things instead of us just giving them the answer, and it promotes memory too.”
Alamour said the program has a very strong support system, with several role models who show the students college is for them. The program teaches students they can do it, upper level classes are for them, and they belong in those scenarios, she added.
“We pay attention to their academic well-being, but we are equally looking at their emotional and social well-being,” said Kim Kessaris, tutoring coordinator for AVID. “We are not counselors, but we pay attention to that side of things, and we are able to direct the students to the resources they need.”
Alamour said she thinks it is difficult for first-generation and minority students to see themselves in those higher-level classes because they are not being represented fairly. However, AVID challenges students to strive higher.
“We’re trying to make those upper level classes more equitable and more open,” Alamour said, “because everyone deserves to be in one of those classes.”
Alamour said many students are in the program from sixth to 12th grade and believes many students make it a serious commitment. Students can be in the program for up to seven years, although students can enter at any time.
“I personally look at it as a leadership program, because I really believe in the individual determination point of the AVID model,” Alamour said. “I think it shows the students are really leaders, and it shows their initiative to make the time to take this extra academic class.”
According to the AVID website, in the 2013-14 school year, 77 percent of students took at least one upper-level class. Eighty-six percent of AVID students applied to a four-year university. Seventy-six percent were accepted, and 85 percent submitted a FAFSA form. The percentage of AVID students who graduated from high school on time was 99 percent.
AVID tutor Alamour said three students are attending Berea College in Kentucky, and all but two are going to four-year schools. The other two students are going to A-B Tech, intending to transfer to a four-year school.
“Last year all of our students went to college who were in the AVID program,” Alamour said, “which is astounding in comparison to the overall statistics.”