Students AVID for learning

Students and administrators in Newton-Conover City Schools talked with system officials Monday about the benefits of a middle- and high-school learning program, hoping the initiative won't fall victim to budget cuts during the system's upcoming budgeting process.

Newton-Conover middle and high school principals Jim Elliott and Kevin Campbell, as well as students involved in the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, spoke with the Newton-Conover City Schools Board of Education about the program's value during the board's Monday night meeting.

"We get students to start to look at what is beyond them, what is beyond high school," Elliott told the Board of Education. "(Getting ready for college) no longer starts in high school. It starts in sixth grade."

AVID is a classroom initiative designed to target mid-range students who score in the B-, C-, and D-range. The program reinforces learning opportunities for students and helps them prepare and succeed in higher-level learning environments. AVID programs are active in 47 states throughout the country.

"It's that middle-of-the-road group," Campbell said. "It's those students who often get overlooked."

AVID students at the NCCS Board of Education meeting said the program helped them not to be overlooked and encouraged them to explore options beyond high school. One NCMS eighth-grader spoke to board members about how AVID changed his perception of schooling and higher education.

"I don't know when it was, but somewhere along the line AVID was helping me get into college," the student said.

Many AVID students will be first-generation college students, meaning they are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university after graduation.

Elliott and Campbell said AVID helps students explore those options through tutors and AVID-certified staff in the high school and the middle school. About 15 NCMS teachers and about 10 NCHS teachers are trained in the AVID curriculum.

The AVID program, however, isn't without its costs.

"We're not going to say this is the cheapest program in the world," Elliott said, "but it does have a lot of ramifications for students."

Costs for the AVID program include half a teacher's salary, about $12 an hour for AVID students' Lenoir-Rhyne University tutors and about $1,000 in miscellaneous expenses, such as field trips and binders to improve students' organizational skills.

During the middle-school years, AVID students have an elective class where they meet with an AVID teacher to learn organizational skills and other tools for classroom success.

As students progress through the AVID system, they can choose to continue the program in high school, where they pair AVID classes with other advanced-level academic courses.

AVID I is taught as a general elective for students. AVID II is taught in conjunction with Algebra II, and AVID III is taught with Honors English III. The high school's AVID IV class is taught during the first semester of a student's senior year and guides students through the college-application process.

Campbell said 100 percent of AVID IV students graduated high school, and about 60 percent of those students continued their schooling after graduation with some kind of higher-level education.

In the future, Campbell hopes to see AVID IV students enrolled in the high school's AP Literature class.

"We really believe that the closest class to a college-level class we can put students in before they graduate high school is an AP-level class," Campbell said.

NCCS board chairman Scott Loudermelt commended Campbell, Elliott and the students for their hard work on the AVID program, which has been in existence at the middle school for seven years.

Campbell said Wednesday he didn't know of any definitive cuts to the program.