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June 03, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, June 03, 2005

Program provides recipe for success Program provides recipe for success (June 03, 2005)

Many AVID kids are first in family to go to college

By Kathy Schrenk

When Grecia Rivera moved here from Mexico five years ago, she barely spoke a word of English. Now, the Los Altos High School senior is getting ready to start working on a business degree at UC Santa Cruz in the fall.

She's the first in her family to go to college, and she credits a great deal of her success to a nationwide program called Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID.

The purpose of the program is to help get kids into college who might not otherwise have a shot at it, said Roma Hammel, a Los Altos High teacher and AVID coordinator there. Often those kids are immigrants or from low-income families, she said, who could use the extra help from peer tutors and dedicated teachers.

AVID helps kids keep their grades up and lets them know that they, too, can get to college. That was a big help for Silvia Leon, who immigrated here five years ago from Peru.

"I always wanted to go to college to have a better life," Leon said. AVID tutors and teachers helped her to research colleges, fill out applications and keep track of admissions deadlines.

Leon plans to go to San Francisco State University in the fall.

AVID also takes kids on field trips to local colleges, Hammel said. "The kids do quite a bit of research on college," she said. "We help them with whole college process." For more affluent kids, parents usually take on these roles. But parents of AVID kids often don't have time or don't understand the system.

Many of the AVID kids will be the first in their family to go to college, Hammel said, adding of the 44 AVID seniors graduating from Los Altos High, 40 are going to a four-year college in the fall. The other four decided to go to a local community college for two years and then transfer, she said.

For senior Kristina Isaac, the program also provides "life counseling" as well as academic help. It even turns the kids and teachers into a support system where they all build close relationships. "I don't think I've gotten that experience with other programs," Isaac said.

For Isaac, who started working in the AVID program her freshman year, it also helped ease the jump into high school. "The transition from middle school to high school can be really hard," she said. "If it weren't for AVID I don't know if I'd be graduating, much less attending college."

E-mail Kathy Schrenk at [email protected]

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