Kern County Advancement Via Individual Determination program moves students in the middle to students at the top
By Rob Meszaros
KCSOS communications coordinator
Until recently, I didn’t know much about AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). I knew it was a college-readiness program of some kind, but that’s about it. I was told it caters to “students in the middle.” But what does that mean, I thought to myself.
I asked Gena Lieske, county AVID manager, who services 28 school sites within 11 Kern County school districts, for clarification.
“These kids have academic potential,” she said. “They are bright, but need a little extra motivation or attention to help them rise above their obstacles.”
So when I showed up to East Bakersfield High School to interview the school’s AVID coordinator, Marciano Flores, I didn’t expect to be greeted by the caliber of student that stood before me.
Ruben Lemus and Patti Garcia introduced themselves, well groomed and donning handsome black Polo-style shirts embossed with their names and the AVID logo. They were professional, engaging and articulate well beyond their years.
I would not have described them as middle-of-the-road students. If they were, I thought, our future is in great hands.
After getting to know the two and Mr. Flores, I was reminded that Ruben and Patti were seniors.
“Our students are awesome,” Flores said. “But, they aren’t necessarily awesome when they start the program as freshmen.”
AVID is based on a standard instructional method known as WICOR, which focuses on writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. But it’s more than about academics alone. It also teaches important life skills like teamwork, leadership and budgeting.
Patti said that before she started the program, she didn’t really have a plan for after she graduated high school.
“AVID gave that to me,” she said.
Ruben was quick to agree.
“I didn’t have any plans either. AVID helped me get my mind straight and on the right path,” he said.
When asked if he thought he would be college bound if it weren’t for the program, Ruben said that he may or may not have been, but the program definitely built his character and made him more competitive and marketable as a college applicant.
Both Ruben and Patti will be attending UC Merced in the fall.
Ruben and Mr. Flores have been selected to speak at AVID’s Summer Institute in August in San Diego, Calif. This is the first time ever a Kern County teacher and student pair will be represented as part of the program at one of the professional development trainings that are held throughout the country each summer. The events bring together educators and to learn the latest in AVID methodologies and strategies to successfully implement AVID in their schools.
Patti is one of two AVID students in Kern County to be awarded a Dell Scholarship, which she was eligible to apply for because she is part of an approved college-readiness program. The scholarship is highly sought-after and its application grueling.
Meanwhile, a few miles east at Foothill High School, Jeffrank Solorzano is Kern County’s other Dell Scholarship recipient. He was accepted to UCLA, a feat he called a “dream come true.”
When Jeffrank was a child, he lived in Los Angeles and recalls driving by UCLA frequently. His mother would often say to him, “see that school, that’s where the smart kids go.”
With a 4.50 high school GPA, Jeffrank surely falls into that category, and will be the first in his family to go to college. He attributes much of his prowess to the AVID program.
“AVID is the key to my success,” he said. “And I’m not just saying that in a cliché type of way. That’s the reality.”
Jeffrank plans to study neurological sciences with his sights set on being a neurologist one day.
“Whenever you’re in a hard economic situation,” he said of his modest upbringing. “The way I am, I try to get out of those situations however I can. I look at my education as my path to a better future.”