By Will McClure
Nearly everyone remembers the days looking forward to life after high school graduation and also finding it a bit difficult to adjust whether they go to college or the workforce. However, for some Stamford High School students, this adjustment period will be much easier thanks to Stamford ISD's AVID program. AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, was established over 35 years ago by a single teacher in San Diego, the program impacts nearly 1.5 million students in 46 states and 16 other countries where students receive instruction in college or career readiness to help prepare them for life after high school. Stamford High School AVID teacher Theasa Lefevre gave some more insight into the program at SHS where the students are able to grow not only academically, but personally as well.
When discussing the class as a whole, Lefevre said that the main core of the class is for the students to learn the skills that will help them after high school, with many skills revolving around building up their communication skills, specifically with speaking. Lefevre said this helps the students communicate in the workplace, communicate with their professors in college or even with their fellow classmates. She went on to say that the skills even go into conflict management when needing to work with disagreements with fellow coworkers, classmates, or even the general public. Even with all of these skills that will help them academically or in the workplace, it also allows the students to grow on a deeper level.
"Also with the communication, they learn about themselves," Lefevre said. "They learn whether or not they are an introvert or an extrovert. So they learn about their personality types and how they learn best so that they can either work on that or go off of what works for them."
Lefevre went on to discuss the main core of the class, which focuses on the WICOR curriculum, with everything accomplished in the class revolving around writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. Lefevre said that the class does a lot of group work, allowing the students to interact with each other and even help hold each other accountable for their work. As part of the class, the students are required to keep an AVID binder which helps them organize their materials for each of their classes with notes, calendars for upcoming assignments, and weekly recaps on what was learned throughout the week. Lefevre said that there is a lot of time management involved to stay on top of their work as well as take notes quickly and efficiently for maximum benefits along with setting personal goals for themselves. She went on to say that a lot of the class is teaching the students to hold themselves accountable for their work, but also help each other and encourage each other to reach their goals. Lefevre said that a big part of the class is growing as an "AVID family" as the groups do a lot of team building and share a lot of personal experiences with each other. Lefevre said that the students get to learn a lot of different things in the AVID classroom that helps translate to their other classes, with each year building on the last.
"The whole idea of the college and career part is that we do a lot of investigation of what interests them and the thing with AVID is that every year is different. The freshman right now are focusing on the transition from middle school to high school and time management...then with the sophomores we start looking at how to study for the ACT and there is a lot of writing, investigating what would be the perfect college for them. The juniors kind of get more into scholarship writing and [how to] apply for colleges and when they are a senior in AVID they apply and we go through the FASFA and we talk about financial aid and we talk about living on their own. So every year kind of builds," Lefevre said. She went on to say that the program can also go down to the elementary level to start the organization process and learn what interests them early.
Along with learning in the classroom, the students are able to see the college experience first-hand with two college visits a year where the students get to visit with college students to learn about college life, see a college classroom and living on campus, and also have the opportunity to eat on campus and learn about the meal plans. In addition, Lefevre schedules guest speakers, predominantly from the Stamford area, to come visit with the AVID students to discuss their own college experiences and career choices as well as answer questions for the students. Lefevre said she tries to find guest speakers, scheduled for once a month, from around the area as the students are able to relate more to the speakers that had attended Stamford schools.
All in all, the SHS AVID students have to undertake a lot of responsibilities to succeed not only in the class, but use the skills to succeed in their other classes as well. Lefevre said that while the class is challenging for many students, with all freshmen taking it last year, the ones that returned for their second year are already seeing the benefits of the program. While the class offers an opportunity to obtain the skills that will help them in the future, ultimately it is really their decision to want to be better and improve, with the rewards being beneficial for their individual futures.