Doing well in college requires organization and study skills. The AVID program ensures students have what it takes to succeed.
Delainey Puelston, an eighth grader at Carlos E. Haile Middle School, used to throw all the papers she would receive in class into her backpack.
Her backpack would become a mishmash of assignments, worksheets and papers from all her classes. Finding anything she needed when she got home was a challenge.
“She’s a very unorganized person, super scattered,” says Delainey’s mother, Shyla. “I’d ask her what her homework was, and she’d say, ‘I don’t know.’ She never wrote anything down. It was just always kind of a guessing game to figure out what was coming next with her.”
To help Puelston achieve the next level academically, her teachers thought all she needed was a little push — which came in the form of a program called AVID: the Advancement Via Individual Determination.
As an elective, the AVID programs at Haile Middle and Braden River High School have been preparing students to get into college and succeed, mostly by focusing on improving students’ organization and study skills.
“AVID is traditionally for the person in the middle, so the one that doesn’t want to stand out, they don’t want to raise their hand,” says Rebecca Rouse, the AVID coordinator and teacher at Braden River High School. “They don’t want to put tons and tons of effort in it. I take those students and push them. It broadens everything for them in their education … AVID is definitely for anyone who wants to push themselves to achieve the best they can achieve.”
Students start in the program by identifying their specific learning style, so they can discern the best note-taking and study techniques for them.
Each student is required to keep a binder that assists in organization. The teachers have binder checks once per week to ensure students stay organized.
Twice per week, students meet in groups to do tutorials, when students can share a problem they are having in any subject, and their classmates can guide them through how to get the answer.
Grade checks are conducted almost every week, so students know where they stand in a class and understand why they have a certain grade.
“It’s awesome to see them change and how much they change from the first day of school to even the 90th day of school,” Rouse says.
Since choosing to take AVID as an elective in seventh grade, Puelston has seen herself become more organized, confident and willing to push herself in school.
She has a folder for each subject that goes into a binder, so she never loses an assignment. She’s developed note-taking skills and study habits that prepare her for the advanced courses she’s enrolled in this year.
Puelston’s grades went from B’s and C’s with a few A’s to mostly A’s with the occasional B or C. Unlike in the past, she’s not afraid to ask her teachers for help.
After this year, Puelston will be enrolled at Lakewood Ranch High School or Parrish Community High School. Neither has an AVID program, so she hopes what she’s learned in her two years as an AVID student at Haile will carry through to high school.
Rouse and Angela Ballard, the AVID coordinator at Haile Middle, have each worked to develop a family atmosphere in their AVID classes, so students feel comfortable going to one another for assistance and support.
The family atmosphere of the classes were crucial last March when Gov. Ron DeSantis required all school districts to move to online learning as the COVID-19 pandemic started sweeping across the state.
The environment the students and staff of the program created gave everyone a virtual support group to go to when they were anxious about the uncertainty of the rest of the school year and what was happening around them. They were there to motivate one another to press on with their assignments and stay on top of their school work.
Rouse described this year’s program as chaotic. She had to fight for the program at the beginning of the year to ensure the school would still provide the elective, even if it meant she would have to teach students who were on campus full time, on the hybrid schedule or at home doing e-learning.
“I said: ‘I’ll do whatever I can. I will take over anything I can. Just let me keep teaching these kids because this is an amazing program,’” Rouse says. “It really is because it benefits them in the long run because they learn writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. They do it to the level that they’re at, but then I push them to go even further. All of them are doing college-level writing and reading.”
With the support of the school’s administration, Rouse was able to have 56 students enroll in the elective this year, a decrease from 120-130 students in past years.
Although Kaylee Cooper, a senior at Braden River High, is at home for e-learning, she wanted to remain in the AVID program through her final semester of high school.
The program, which she joined in sixth grade and continued through middle and high school, has helped her learn time management and how to set an agenda for herself. She struggled with juggling her academics and her participation in school clubs and playing soccer.
Now that she’s learning at home, her agenda has become critical to ensuring she keeps organized and on top of her assignments and exams.
The program also has students explore their post-secondary education options by conducting research about scholarships and financial aid and learning about what different colleges have to offer.
As Cooper prepares for college next year, the AVID program has helped her with college applications and learning about various colleges and universities.
Due to the pandemic, Cooper hasn’t been able to go to college campuses for tours but has done virtual tours.
“It takes off a little bit of stress that I feel like I would have if I wasn’t in AVID because I feel like it opens your mind to so many more colleges and schools you might have never thought to look at or never thought you could go to,” Cooper says. “It helps give you more encouragement and motivation once you find a school or you see more options you never thought you would have.”