Eighth-graders ‘sign in’ to AVID program

One assignment down… many, many more to go.

Fifty eighth-graders completed Wednesday night what could be unofficially considered their first task at Greenwich High School, as they signed contracts that committed them to meeting the standards of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college-readiness program. They will start AVID as ninth-graders in the fall.

“I am so excited to be here tonight,” guidance counselor Mara Adelsberg, the AVID site coordinator at Greenwich High, said during the contract-signing ceremony in the school’s media center. “This is probably one of my favorite nights in the entire year, because we are welcoming a new class to the high school, not just Greenwich High School students, but students who are AVID family.”

AVID focuses on students in the “academic middle,” who might need extra support to reach their academic potential. Elective classes that students take all four years anchor the program. Pupils stay with the same AVID teacher throughout the four years.

The first class of AVID students, known as the Sweet 16 because there were 16 of them, graduated last year. They all belonged to their families’ first generation of college students.

The nonprofit Greenwich Alliance for Education launched and sponsors the Greenwich High version of AVID, which is run in schools throughout the country.

This year’s senior AVID class, taught by social studies teacher Ken Alcorn, has 22 students. All of them have earned college acceptances.

The approximately four-dozen students starting AVID in the fall is a program record for one year.

Alcorn and English teacher Jill Bowcock will teach the two AVID ninth-grade classes in 2014-15.

“For me, it’s been a wonderful experience, and it’s been a great ride,” Alcorn said. “Now that it’s ending, I’m thinking I’ve got to do this again. I’m very excited that so many eighth-graders have chosen to be a part of this program.”

Bowcock expressed similar enthusiasm.

“I started my love for AVID in Mr. [Frank] Kovac’s AVID nine [class] this year,” she said. “I just started as a tutor, and they were so fantastic that I decided that I really wanted to be part of AVID, too.”

A number of current AVID students spoke at the ceremony, offering encouragement and advice to the eighth-graders.

“It’s going to help you get more comfortable with the high school, so you won’t be so out of place,” said freshman Emilio Garcia. “Your transition will be a lot easier. All the teachers for AVID will help you a lot.”

Sophomore Diana Jaramillo described the program as a “comfort zone.”

“Whenever I’m feeling down in something, my AVID family, my classmates, are there for me, not only for academics, but for stuff that happens in life, too,” she said.

Fellow sophomore John Mendoza talked about AVID’s focus on determination.

“You guys have to push yourselves, to motivate yourselves to do better in school,” he said. “Your grades – they reflect onto AVID. In AVID, you do get graded.”

Junior Alma Maldonado, who is taking four honors classes this year, discussed the importance of the college visits that she has gone on with her AVID classmates.

“One of the things I like is the college visits,” she said. “You get to see the college obviously. It also helps you prepare more about what you’re going to expect after college.”

Seniors Soraya Molina and Nora Gashi discussed how AVID has helped them to develop during the last four years. Molina will attend Suffolk University in Boston, and Gashi will attend American University in Washington, D.C.

“Freshman year, if I was standing up right here, I wouldn’t have been able to even speak,” Molina said. “AVID really helped me to get out of my comfort zone and really start talking and being able to speak in front of you guys.”

Gashi described the closeness among AVID students.

“My best friends are actually all in my AVID class,” she said. “There’s not one best friend, quote-unquote, that I have that’s not in my AVID class. You guys will create special bonds with so many of the people in your AVID classes.”

While much is expected of the class of 2018, the new AVID students said they are eager to take on the challenge.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Jalynn Marrero, an eighth-grader at Eastern Middle School. “I’m very excited about going into AVID.”


Paul Schott