News

AVID celebrates transition to success

By MARGO HORNER

The Mirror

When presented with a choice for an elective class, most high school students choose something fun, such as pottery, band, photography or physical education.

That's not true for a handful of students at Thomas Jefferson High School.

Students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program chose instead to spend their free hours studying organization techniques, note-taking skills and college preparation.

All their hard work has paid off, and the first group of graduating AVID seniors celebrated their success last week. Many of the 16 seniors have been members of the AVID program since it began at Thomas Jefferson four years ago.

Each senior in the AVID program graduated this year, and all are going on to two-year or four-year colleges.

"They've worked really hard. They've given up fun electives like P.E. and band to work hard," said Tara Bacher, an AVID teacher.

The AVID program is aimed at students who are typically underrepresented in college, such as minorities, people in poverty and students whose parents never attended college.

To apply for AVID, a student must have a 2.0 through 3.5 grade point average, good attendance, good test scores and a desire to go to college. They must also be prepared to work hard.

AVID teachers, like Bacher, emphasize organization and thorough note-taking. Students are required to show the AVID teacher their notes and report their grades in all classes.

Junior and senior AVID students research colleges and practice writing essays. They study scholarship and financial aid options.

"The hard work comes now and the fun comes later, after the hard work," Bacher tells them.

Bacher serves as an educational advocate for the students, coaching them through the hard times and constantly pushing them excel and stay on track.

"It's been a struggle to make good choices when their friends are not," she added.

Tim Friedeck, a senior who's been in AVID for four years, said the program helped him get organized and keep his grades up.

"Before, I was a sporadic mess like most high school teenage boys," Friedeck said.

For senior Yara Gonzalez, a fourth-year AVID student, the program was about hope. Balancing high school and her 1-year-old son, Darnell, was a struggle, Gonzalez said.

Without the encouragement and help of Bacher, Gonzalez isn't sure she would have graduated high school. Now, she plans to attend a technical college.

"I love Ms. Bacher, she's pretty amazing," Gonzalez said. "She's more than a teacher. She's like one of our best friends."

Grace Njuguna, a graduating AVID student, said the program helped her gain scholarships and get into the college of her choice, St. Augustine College in North Carolina.

"It helped me realize that money's not an issue," she said. "It enlightened me that you can't make excuses not to go to college."

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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