Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

AVID Program Helping Middle School Thrive

Nov. 13, 2017 -- "Individual determination."

Advancement Via Individual Determination is a national program designed to “close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society,” according to the AVID website.

At Roxboro and Monticello middle schools, the program is thriving under the direction of AVID instructors Lia Radke and Andrett Calloway. The two women, both new to AVID this year, see their role as not just teacher, but cheerleader, life coach, and even parent.

“This is a family environment,” said Calloway. “We are the parents away from home.”

Her students agree. Seventh grader Ahmya Diggins said, “I feel different when I’m in AVID because we’re one big family. I feel like if I need help with something, I can always come here.”

Radke’s students feel the same. Toni Trent said, “AVID is not like other classes. It’s not too big and not too small and you know you can talk about anything and even choose where to sit because Mrs. Radke trusts us enough.”

That trust is vital to the work they’re doing. AVID teachers provide and reinforce strategies so their students can take ownership over their educational paths. “We’re not about saving kids,” said Radke. “We have gifted students enrolled in this program as well. But we are about boosting them, giving them the foundational skills they need – like how to stay organized – to really succeed.”

Student smiling at another student 

The focus on organization is one of the five components of AVID’s learning support structure, known as WICOR: Writing to Learn, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading to Learn.

At Heights Middle School, AVID is also about exposure. Their first unit this year was called College-Bound and included visits to two local universities. This was a first for many students, who marveled at everything from the lack of bells to the sheer number of students voluntarily studying during the day.

The seventh and eighth graders also visited Noble Elementary recently, where AVID is a school-wide initiative as opposed to an elective like it is in the middle school. Students engaged their younger peers, offering them the same advice and gentle corrections that they themselves had received from their teachers.

AVID members helping younger students at their desks 

Calloway reports that one boy, whose binder of work tends to be on the messy side, was overheard telling his fifth grade partner, “Your papers can’t be crumpled up like this. Look, they should all be facing the same direction and in the right order. Then you’ll be able to find what you need.”

“That’s when you know they’re really learning,” said Calloway.

Radke knows that many of the strategies and skills promoted by AVID’s curriculum are necessary for all middle school students and is working to push AVID-inspired lessons and activities into the rest of the building. “It’s just really fun to have the chance to apply good pedagogy to teaching life skills. In here, I get to really engage with kids and help them across the board. I get to prepare kids for life.”

Four AVID members sitting at desks 

The students feel it. Roxboro seventh grader Viza Freeman likes AVID because “we talk about college and opportunities for our future and how to prepare for that so we can really become the things we want to be.”

Monticello student Nogoye Cisse summed it up when she said that AVID and the AVID teachers “want us to believe we can do good things in our lives. And they’re teaching us how to.”

Those are the key words – and key life skills – fostered by the AVID program at Heights Middle School. 

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