AVID transforms Wellington Middle School

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There’s an air of excitement at Wellington Middle School these days. At the end of April, National AVID welcomed Wellington Middle School as an International AVID Demonstration School. They join an elite group of 118 AVID Demonstration Schools in the nation. What is AVID, and what does this designation mean to the school?

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination — words that take on special meaning when the goals of the program become clear. Wellington Middle School principal and Poudre School District AVID director Alicia Durand has been involved with AVID for more than a decade. Specifically designed to address the needs of the academic middle, AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing students for college readiness and success in a global society.

Durand explains that while there are programs for the gifted and for those with special needs, there has not been a major focus on the 80 percent of students who fall into the middle. The program was first introduced into the Poudre School District in 2000, but support for it languished over time until Durand became its director. “You can’t introduce a dream and then not keep it going,” she insists. “With the right support and preparation, anyone can go to college.”

Moving ahead on what Durand calls “a wing and a prayer,” the Wellington staff received AVID training and made a long-term commitment to the program. It has completely transformed the school which was listed as a Colorado Trailblazer School to Watch in 2012 and also received a national Green Ribbons award. Gross achievement scores rank WMS in the 97th percentile among middle schools in the state.

Participants in the AVID program are usually the first in their families to have college as a goal, are often minorities, and, most importantly, have the desire to succeed in a college-bound culture. They take a series of three AVID classes during middle school beginning with school survival skills in sixth grade. In the process of learning what it takes to succeed, students learn reading, writing and math skills, note-taking, collaborating and organizing techniques. They learn the importance of asking questions. Tutors from Colorado State University share their knowledge and experiences. Students can enter the program at any time.

AVID students are required to take advanced placement classes to help prepare them for the culture of college. Wellington has introduced algebra and geometry in eighth grade classes as a result of the program.

In some areas of the country, AVID is implemented as early as fourth grade and continues through high school. In PSD the program is at Boltz and Blevins middle schools and at Poudre and Fort Collins high schools.

The 28 seventh graders in Nicole Orswell’s AVID class meet for 40 minutes at the end of every school day. They complete tutorial request forms where they document problems or questions that arise in their subject matter classes. Twice a week they meet in small groups to share their requests and offer solutions to each other. Colorado State University student tutors take part in these group meetings and offer assistance as needed.

Rene Cardenas is an eloquent spokesman for AVID, explaining that since enrolling in Wellington Middle School this year he has benefitted from the sharing of ideas and is proud of the progress he’s made improving his grades. “It’s great to have friends helping you,” he says. “We’re like a family.”

Cheyanne Dube joins Rene in her appreciation of AVID. Last year her teacher suggested she enroll in the program to help her become more involved with fellow students in pursing her goals. School is a happier experience for her these days.

Rene and Cheyanne are learning to keep their binders organized and the skills needed to take detailed, helpful notes. Together they explain the meaning of “SMART” goals in the AVID program: S for specifics, M for measurable, A for applicable, R for realistic, and T for time. Today they learned something new: avid is a real word with a meaning, eager. It fits them both.