AVID classes helps student tutors elevate classmates

Special to the HeraldDecember 30, 2013 

Julio Martinez, a freshman AVID students, shares his point of confusion with the rest of his tutorial group. PHOTO PROVIDED

Intensive reading and remediation classes are designed to aid students who need extra help to pass core classes or standardized tests.

Classes such as advanced placement and leadership courses are designed for the determined student who attains success frequently.

In 1980, Mary Catherine Swanson designed a class aimed at the rest of the student body: those in the middle. The course. commonly referred to as AVID, stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

This elective course is designed for the "average" student. This would include those who have the potential to become high-achievers and, with help from the program, can fulfill their plans for a successful future.

"I initially thought the AVID program would come and go just like many other programs that have filtered in and out of our school system in Manatee. Now, after not only realizing the worldwide success of this program, but also seeing its success in my classroom, I realize just how valuable AVID can be," freshman AVID teacher Katherine Masterson said.

A large part of the success of the program is the tutorial process. An AVID student presents a troubling problem or concept from another class to a small group of students. Other AVID students in the group then help the presenter try to solve the problem by asking questions to provoke problem-solving strategies instead of directly explaining the solution. This process requires everyone in the group to be engaged and allows the presenter to solve the problem on his/her own.

"When a classmate asks me questions, it clicks, which makes this a tremendous help. It is much more helpful than going over it once quickly in class," junior AVID student Lauren Baker said.

The tutorial process gives students the opportunity to speak in front of their peers, which is a struggle for many AVID students.

"The tutorials really push students out of their comfort zone. When done correctly, tutorials really teach students valuable life lessons -- effective communication, thinking for yourself, and struggling through a difficult problem while others are watching," Masterson said.

The course also gives students time to focus on their futures by suggesting various options. By doing this, students are able to shape their future based on their own needs and not the strict mold of society.

"This program has taught me that I am capable of more than I thought and showed me that my future is what I make out of it," freshman AVID student Tianna Zimarino said.

One aspect of the program sets it apart from other elective courses: AVID tutors. The tutors are high-level seniors who act as role models to the AVID students. The tutors were selected after an application and interview process.

"After hearing Mrs. Hand's speech about needing tutors and the role as a tutor, I knew right away that it is something I wanted to do," senior Kayla McNulty said.

McNulty works with the freshmen AVID students. Along with the other three tutors, she acts as a class leader, helping the teacher with necessary activities and maintaining a tutorial group each week.

"These students have such potential and such desire that it is amazing as a tutor to see them get better each class. As a tutor, I am inspiring these students to reach their full potential, and that is beyond rewarding. I am forming relationships with each one of them, and I want to be that motivation that some of the freshman don't have present at home. This class is going to go so far, and I'm blessed to take part in that," McNulty said.

With support from AVID teachers and tutors, the students are able to rise to the challenge of college readiness. Part of this support lies also in the students themselves, who, with the help of team bonding and ice-breaker activities, are able to join together as a class.

"I do believe in AVID. We are a family, we all have similar reasons for being there and we are learning similar things. The different activities bring us closer," Zimarino said.

Ninety percent of reporting AVID seniors in 2012 plan to attend a postsecondary institution.

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