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Claremont COURIER/Friday, January 16, 2015

EDUCATION

CUSD elementary school kids gear up for career, college

ome of the Claremont Unified


School Districts youngest students
are becoming very avid about going
to college.

The increase in academic ambition comes after a


move last year to bring the AVID college-readiness
programwhich was already at El Roble Intermediate
and Claremont High
Schooldown to the elementary school level.
AVID, which stands for
Advancement Via IndividI need to keep
ual Determination, is a program dedicated to closing
my mind on the
the achievement gap. Estabgoals I have
lished 30 years ago, its a
support curriculum teachers
set more than
can use to help students
talking, and on
plan ahead for career and
my grades. I
college and take the steps
needed to succeed in both.
want to become
At Vista del Valle and
a doctor.
Oakmont elementary
schools, students in the
Albert Arnold, 11
fourth through sixth grades
Vista Elementary
embarked on the AVID curriculum last year. This year,
Sumner Elementary signed
on and Vista and Oakmont
students in the third grade
became AVID students.
Next year, Oakmonts second graders will join AVID
and, should Vistas second-grade teachers agree to
take on the program, they will follow suit.
AVID first reached the elementary school level in
2007 and has since trickled all the way down to
kindergarten. Vista principal Dave Stewart says kudos
are owed to the district whichrecognizing the dividends of the programhas shown support for expansion of the program.
Instituting AVID came out of conversations with
parents and staff members about wanting to set the bar
high for our kids, especially those students who are
high-performing and doing well, he said. And with
changes to the Common Core, we want to prepare our
students for a higher level of rigor.
Anyone who follows education today knows that
the field is awash acronyms. AVID has introduced another into the alphabet soupWICOR, a series of
concepts on which its curriculum rests.
At Vista, AVID students focus on writing to learn,
an idea that dovetails nicely with the writing-centric
new Common Core State Standards. Inquiry is encouraged, with students urged to ask the kind of deep
questions that lead to true subject understanding.
AVID students do lots of collaboration, echoing
the teamwork demanded in todays workplace. Kids
learn organization by keeping daily schedules of
their activities, assignments and priorities. And AVID
teachers emphassize reading to learn by stressing information-rich nonfiction reading.
Its a recipe that makes sense. For instance, anyone
who has struggled with their own organizational skills
understands the importance of this aspect of WICOR.
A lot of times, kids procrastinate because they
think, Oh, my God, that project is so huge. If a kid
has a project thats not due for two weeks, we help
them plan that out, Mr. Stewart said. Were helping
promote more forward thinking and better planning.
One of the best aspects of AVID is its bang for the
buck. The district pays for teacher trainings and the
schools provide some simple support materials. Most
of the implementation is a matter of mindset. AVID
schools hold regular articulation meetings with El
Roble and CHS to make sure they are preparing kids
for the next step.

COURIER photos/Steven Felschundneff


Albert Arnold and Jazmin Lopez work on a project on Tuesday in Momi Garcias fifth and sixth grade class at
Vista del Valle Elementary School. The two students spoke about the AVID program during a recent seminar.

The multi-purpose rooms at Oakmont and Vista are


emblazoned with college banners, and every other
Friday, the staff and students at both schools don
spirit wear celebrating their favorite colleges. Parents
regularly speak in classrooms at both schools about
their careers and the steps they used to secure them.
Students at Oakmont have taken a field trip to
Pomona College to see what its like to be on a college
campus. They looked at the course schedule and filled
out an agenda with classes they might like to take, as
well as clubs they might want to belong to. Not long
ago, students from Vista visited the UCLA college fair
and also got to root for the Bruins at a football game.
Jazmin said she used to have posters of the band One
Direction covering her bedroom walls but, since she
started in AVID, posters from colleges have replaced
them.

The numbers bear out AVIDs efficacy. The percentage of kids who have had at least two years of AVID
who qualify for a four-year college is 90 percent,
whereas the national average is 35 percent.
AVID is designed to be a support, Mr. Stewart
said. If you are saying you have to lose 20 pounds
this year, someone might say, Yeah, Ive got a great
group thats gonna help you with that. You wouldnt
say, Ive got 20 pounds to lose and Ive got to be part
of this group. This group is going to help you accomplish your goal.
Oakmont Principal Stacey Stewart is a huge fan of
AVID.
Oh, my gosh, its been awesome, she said. Its
never too early to start thinking about college. And
now, its not just like these students can picture it. Its
beyond that at this point. They will actually tell you
where they want to go to college.
Not long ago, Mr. Stewart was amused to hear a
conversation between students eating lunch.
A student said they wanted to go into medicine and
mentioned a college, and a kid across the way said,
You dont want to go there. They dont have a very
good medical program, Mr. Stewart said. Here they
are, in fifth grade, evaluating colleges.

sked what AVID means to her,


Jazmin Lopez, a Vista sixth
grader, was succinct: If I had to
put it one word, it means success.
This is the first year that Jazmins classmate, Albert
Arnold, 11, has been at Vista. Hes very much a kid,
running out to the playground to play basketball and
handball whenever possible. Still, he has a new maturity since viewing his future through the lens of AVID.
I need to keep my mind on the goals I have set
more than talking, and on my grades, he said. I want
to become a doctor. Once I hit junior high and high
school, Ill want to start taking biology courses. And I
want to go to USC.
Earlier this year, at an AVID showcase held on the
Vista campus, Jazmins father took a moment to share
a touching anecdote.
Thanks to the influence of AVID, Jazmin, on her
own initiative, obtained posters and pennants promoting colleges from her guidance counselor mother. She
then opted to take down her pin-ups of the boy band
One Direction, trading them for university swag hyping schools like Biola, St. Johns and Alabama State.
You do all this work. It makes it worthwhile when
you hear about the dreams they have, Mr. Stewart
said.
Sarah Torribio
storribio@claremont-courier.com