AVID program helping White River students succeed

Jennifer Sweitzer looks forward to entering White River High School in the fall and plans to maintain her 4.0 grade-point average while taking challenging courses.

Having just finished her eighth-grade year at Glacier Middle School, she is an AVID student.

Jeff (last name withheld by request) is a White River High School student featured in the school district's AVID video. With forces wreaking havoc on his home life, Jeff found himself struggling at school. He heard about AVID and got on board.

His grades went from Ds to a nearly-perfect 4.0 average, and, he said, it's made him a better person.

Jennifer and Jeff's success are two of the hundreds of stories coming out of the White River School District's AVID program.

A couple of years ago, WRHS Assistant Principal Greg Borgerding brought the AVID program to district leaders and it's been his passion since.

It's based on the premise, he said, that "College isn't available to a select few. It should be available to all."

AVID – Advancement Via Individual Determination – targets students like Jennifer and Jeff, who are in the academic middle – B, C and even D students – who have potential. It challenges them, while provide a supportive system, to take on rigor and look forward to college.

"Rather than provide remediation, it provides acceleration," Borgerding said.

White River is one of 41 districts in Washington state that offer AVID. Across the country, 4,500 schools in 46 states offer programs.

Currently, White River has approximately 60 students at each grade level, eighth through 12th-grade, and is working to expand it to the rest of the middle school and eventually into the elementary level too.

"The AVID program has helped us reach a group of kids who perhaps needed a little bit of an extra boost or maybe some help with some additional skills," Principal Mike Hagadone said.

AVID is an elective class where students learn how to keep schoolwork organized and how to take good notes. During class students prepare for college entrance exams and form tutorial groups twice a week with college tutors who help with the difficult subjects. AVID students also visit college campuses and area businesses to learn more about the choices available after high school.

"It keeps me organized," Sweitzer said. "The learning sticks to me, not just passes through me for a test."

Glacier Middle School Principal Andy McGrath pointed out Sweitzer was one of 43 eighth-grade students who took high school algebra during the recently-completed academic year, 40 who were passing last in the term. But, just as important, he said is how she's applied the skills she's learning to other areas of life.

"It's great to see the confidence she's gained," McGrath said. "She's grown in a lot of other ways, not just academic ways."

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