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Youth getting AVID about their future

March 22, 2013

Home Street Middle School’s AVID class, with teacher Tiffany Randall (r), poses for a photo at the University of San Diego campus during its February trip to several Southern California campuses. Randall said the eighth-graders returned inspired and motivated to pursue their higher education starting with new strategies for making the most of their high school career from freshman year on. Photo courtesy Tiffany Randall

Home Street Middle School eighth-graders had a chance to get a bird’s eye view of college life that may impact the way they look at their high school career.
During a four-day tour of several Southern California universities, HSMS teacher Tiffany Randall’s eighth-grade AVID class broadened its academic horizons, went sightseeing and was inspired by a renowned educator, Randall said.
Nineteen of the 22 HSMS AVID students took the Feb. 12-15 trip, designed to inspire them to get on a “university-path” by having them actually experience campuses, Randall said. From the start of the venture, the kids measured up to AVID standards – Advancement Via Individual Determination – by raising “100 percent of the money for their trip” through car washes.
Randall, her husband Jonathan and AVID parent Kelli Jepson chaperoned tours of California State University, San Marcos, University of California San Diego, University of San Diego and University of California Los Angeles campuses.
The trip refocused the way the middle-schoolers see high school, Randall said. They are “better prepared for which classes to take and are encouraged to take AP and honors classes when they can,” to try new clubs, sports and volunteer work.
“They have an understanding of just how high the bar is to get into the universities they would like to get into,” she continued. “It pushed them to realize just how hard they need to work now.”
It wasn’t all work and no play for the junior achievers. The AVID group took in a UCLA basketball game, tickets and food courtesy of the university, Randall said. They stopped off at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, within San Diego city limits, to play in the surf – a first experience of the ocean for some of the kids.
While in San Diego, the group also attended a film festival and saw a documentary about Erin Gruell, author of “Freedom Writers,” a collection of inner-city student writings, as a follow up to the 2007 drama by the same name which they’d seen in class. “The students were mostly all in tears and very effected. It was very impactful,” Randall said. At the festival, they met Gruell and she and two of her students signed copies of “Freedom Writers” and donated them to the AVID group. “She had us all stand up in the crowd, and come up to collect our books. She made us feel very special.” Gruell emphasized the importance of “‘paying it forward’ and motivated our students to do community service.” The AVID kids created the “Cut for the Cure” Pennies for Patients fundraiser activity, raising $430.
Randall said she established an AVID class at HSMS because, although one exists at Bishop Union High School, it is important to encourage eighth-graders to get started “on a college path starting their first year in high school” so they approach those four years with an overall purpose.
All seventh-graders are eligible to apply for AVID through a process that includes a written application and an interview, Randall said. Students are encourage to initiate the process and teachers may recommend students as well. AVID is especially designed for “students who have college-going potential, but maybe, for one reason or another, need the guidance to get there.” A number of socioeconomic factors, test scores and grades are taken into account in the selection process. Randall said that AVID typically attracts “middle-of-the-road” students who have “the motivation to reach the top.”
AVID curriculum includes learning study habits, the value of study groups and how to form them and career and university research skills and students get help with their other subjects.
“This is AVID’s first year at HSMS and it has been a great success,” Randall said, which can be measured academically and socially. “The students have become an AVID family and support each other to do their best and accomplish their goals.” They are motivated to attend college, she said, and their grade point averages are markedly higher than they were in seventh-grade.

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