Alysan Widick, a Golden Valley High School junior, flipped through the papers in her neatly organized three-ring binder Wednesday morning in Melissa Spencer's AVID class.
It was a ritual she never would have done on her own -- but her class requires it.
AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It's a program designed to ensure that students -- the least-served, middle-performing students -- succeed in high school and go on to four-year colleges.
Golden Valley High School's AVID program, which was just named an AVID national demonstration school, specifically targets low-income students who are the first in their family to attend college -- students like Widick.
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Widick said her parents always wanted her to go to college. They just didn't know how to talk to her about preparing for it.
AVID has helped a lot with that, she said.
For one, the in-class tutors AVID provides have helped her take more challenging classes, courses such as pre-calculus, that she might have avoided otherwise.
It also prepares students for entrance exams like the SATs and allows them to take the PSATs for free. In addition to teaching students basic organization and note-taking skills, the program also makes sure each student applies for scholarships.
"Understanding that a lot of our students don't have a lot of support in place, meaning they may be the first in their family to go to college or they may be from a lower-income family, when they are in AVID they get tutorial support, organization support, an adult making a connection with a student," said Craig Chavez, the school's principal. "Some of the lessons address student leadership skills. (Students) are required to take at least one college level course in their junior and senior year."
AVID is offered at more than 1,500 schools across the country, including Department of Defense schools in Europe and the Pacific.
The program at Golden Valley High School was the first one in the Merced Union High School District. Since it started, all the other comprehensive high schools have adopted similar programs.
AVID was started in 1980 by two English teachers from San Diego who were concerned about a number of C-average students who weren't getting the attention they needed, according to the organization.
AVID was designed to provide those students with college preparatory classes to make sure they were college-eligible.
Golden Valley High School was also named a demonstration school in 2006.
The way schools are picked is that every few years an AVID demonstration school committee visits a site to see if it meets a list of standards, which include having 10 percent of the school population enrolled in AVID and using AVID study techniques throughout the entire school, Chavez said.
Out of the 134 AVID students who graduated last year, all were accepted into a two- or four-year college.
Of the four-year universities, 17 were accepted at California State University, Fresno and CSU Stanislaus. One student is enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Alex Salado is one of the tutors in Spencer's AVID class at Golden Valley, but she's also a former AVID student from Golden Valley High School.
In middle school she said she was in all advanced classes, but was lazy.
When she enrolled in AVID, the teacher snapped her out of her complacency and told her that for now, school was her job.
"I needed motivation," she said. "AVID kicked me in the butt. It helped me understand that my actions would affect where I ended up."
Salado said she plans to go into teaching and hopes to one day also teach AVID, because of how much it changed her life.
Students who have the desire to go to college, she said, but who don't know how to get there should take this class.
And she's walking the walk.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.