When Sofia Sanchez was 4 or 5 years old, she received a baby doll for Christmas. Little Sofia found her baby doll “Samantha” was usually sick and needed extra care. Before long, Sofia declared that she wanted to be “a baby doctor” when she grew up.
But no one in Sofia’s family had ever gone to college.
“I always wanted to be something but never knew how to get there,” recalled the 2016 R.A. Long High School graduate.
Now, students like Sofia have a road map.
As a high school freshman, she joined R.A. Long’s first cohort of AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) students. The college-readiness program prepares students to succeed in high school and university.
Selected for their grades, test scores, socioeconomic backgrounds, parents’ education levels and other special circumstances, the two dozen AVID students in Sofia’s cadre formed a close-knit family among the Class of 2016’s 180 students.
“That family aspect is the motivator for everything else,” Sofia said. “It’s made me more confident in myself.”
Joie Matteo, a.k.a. “AVID-Mama,” the class’s AVID electives teacher, is passionate about the program.
“The goal of the class isn’t Common Core,” Matteo said. “The goal of the class is to set them up for success after high school, so they can achieve their dreams.”
That involves teaching them both study skills and life skills.
The study skills include strategies for notetaking, digesting information, asking questions and making the most of group study sessions. Incidentally, those skills have been adopted throughout the school.
“It’s really helped our struggling learners, because it gives them a framework,” said R.A. Long principal Rich Reeves.
But AVID goes way beyond academics. Matteo’s students practiced preparing food on the cheap for dorm life. They learned to change a tire. They were coached to write thank-you notes. They went on a road trip visiting colleges and universities, staying in dormitories.
“I’m trying to make sure before I send them off that they’re going with some skills,” she said.
Those skills include overcoming roadblocks in their lives and learning to advocate for themselves, including financially. As of June 8, the AVID Class of 2016 had received $712,000 in scholarship offers. And nearly all the AVID graduates are starting college this fall.
Sofia is among them, heading to Washington State University in Pullman for its pre-med program, her intent to fulfill her childhood dream.
“AVID helps kids learn who they are and what they’re capable of,” teacher Matteo reflected recently, “so they see beyond the here and now.”