Of the Keizertimes

In June, 13 McNary High School accepting their diplomas will have a special reason to celebrate. They’re all headed to college and that may not have happened had it not been for the Celtic AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program.

“They’re all students who have the right skills to go on, but they are typically the first ones in their family to attend college. They need the extra support to get there,” said Elisabeth Sonis, McNary’s AVID coordinator.

AVID students receive special training on taking notes and are pushed to enroll in honors and advanced placement courses throughout their high school careers; some start in the program as early as middle school. In GPA averages alone, the program has paid significant dividends. The average GPA for a McNary student is 2.66, while AVID students boast an average GPA of 3.1.

In addition, they are given time to meet when they can bring in nagging questions about school work or life and discuss the issues as a group.

“As much as the teachers support them, the kids really support each other and that is a key component. The kids are what make the program great,” Sonis said.

This year’s crop of AVID students are the first to graduate from McNary, but the program has grown by leaps and bounds; 59 freshmen entered McNary in the AVID program this year and two of them, Khawter Hussein and Carolina Altamirano-Syler, were recently awarded $1,000 scholarships via an essay contest through First Tech Credit Union.

The graduating AVID students, all who are continuing their education in college next year are: Ashley Brown, Lianuan Cummings-Rogers, Mariah Cunningham, Cathleen Estrada, Fernando Gracida, Brittany Hemry, Magaly Martinez-Reyes, Davida McCauley, Jessica Montoya-Lopez, Magaly Ortiz, Claudia Rios, Angela Roman, Christian Serrano, and Corey White.

AVID students recently wrote essays about their time in the AVID program and the Keizertimes staff was asked to judge the entries for publication in the paper.

Here are the winning entries:


Second Opportunity

By Idaiana Valladares

As my hands reached toward the metallic coolness of the door handle I began to shake and become covered with drops of sweat. I pulled the handle towards my body and before I knew it my feet were above the plastic silky marble floor of the George Fox University. This building seemed like a fancy, into the future, type of tree house. It had enormous trees surrounding the building and it had plants inside filling the walls with an earthy aroma. It had thousands of rooms; rooms that, to me, would seem like they wanted me to explore what lay behind the wooden portals. As intimidating as this may seem, it did not feel that way at all. On the contrary, I would feel a sweet, belonging emotion. Never would I have thought I could experience such a feeling. But because of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) I have experienced many similar moments and they have changed my life.

Field trips are an aspect of AVID that encourage students to become involved with their community and to explore the campuses of different universities. I have never voluntarily signed up to perform community service on my own time, but since AVID is pushing me to persist and attend college community service became a requirement. This requirement motivated me to interact with community and go above and beyond. For example, as a junior, we had a field trip to Salem’s Northgate Community Garden where we helped beautify and improve Northgate’s garden. This community does not have the best, safe reputation. Residents of Northgate have suffered a lot. They have to live in fear. Imagine not feeling safe in our own home and neighborhood. When I found this out, I knew that being able to be part of the improvement, the garden, some citizens have wanted to create in Northgate was an incredible honor. After the field trip, I knew AVID was more than just a program, it has a purpose. I came to conclude that AVID will help you see with your heart and not let your eyes deceive you.

The field trips are entertaining and enjoyable, but AVID has these trips as rewards for meeting our and the program’s high expectations, which are equally as important. As soon as my plastic smooth pen touched the thin paper and the ink began to make out my name I realized I had just committed myself to AVID and its expectations. One of their expectations is that each of their students has to take honor classes and also maintain a grade percentage average (GPA) of 3.5 and higher. I have only been in the program for two years, but I have learned so much. For example, how to have leadership skills and being a worker as well. Because to be a leader, one has to learn how to start from the bottom and reach the top. AVID has many challenges; one of them is the academic scores they push us to stay on task to go above the average student. That push we receive later automatically turns into motivation, inspiration and determination. As a junior this year,  I am required to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). During class we take time to prepare for this exam. If I did not have AVID to guide me through the process I would be completely lost. My parents have never taken this type of exam, which is a factor of me being accepted in a university of my choice, so I would be on my own. AVID is my guide to college.

Lastly, throughout these two years I’ve come to grow fond of my AVID teachers and trust in them giving me the right materials to help me pursue my dream of going to college! I have a close relationship with my teachers and classmates. I also see the same classmates every year so we became more than just AVID classmates. We became a family. Since we all take higher level classes and we most likely end up in the same class period during study days, we help each other understand and clarify the material we previously learned. Also several Latino students, including myself, in the program have the same or similar case scenarios. The most common one is being the first one in their family to attend or attempt college. We motivate each other because we feel understood and we don’t allow each other to say, “l can’t do it. No one understands me!” because we do we are all going through the same situation. No one is left behind. We all work as a team to make sure all of us are in the same boat and on the same track.

AVID to me is a road of hope that comes along once in a lifetime. Offering field trips to gain a feel of what college like, high expectations, and a close bond between teacher and student. I am thankful for my science teacher for recommending me for AVID. I am, to this day, gaining new and better understandings of the world around me. This program has really inspired me, therefore I have and commit to coming up with new ideas of how to have an impact on the world and people’s life. AVID is like a second opportunity, so take it.


By Erica Nixon

I’ve been in AVID for four years now, and I’ve experienced all it has to give. This program is more than most would imagine. It’s not just a study hall. This class pushed individuals to find it within themselves to do better – in school and out. As a junior at McNary High School, I can easily say that this year is probably the toughest, but through the training and habits AVID has provided me throughout the years I am getting through it. Advancement Via Individual Determination has shown me that I can be more than I thought I could.

I started AVID in eighth grade. At the time, new hormones were raging and home life was difficult; I was having a very hard time focusing on school. What middle school student doesn’t? I still believe I had a very lucky life, honestly. Apart from the issues at that time, my family was very supportive and loving, I had all the essentials, but it still seemed everything was falling apart. I could hardly stay focused in school and my grades were dropping more and more every day. I had no goals, no future planned. I was terrified of what life had in store and was left without a map. The looming high school was waiting for me that next year and I felt in no way prepared for it. Then along came AVID, with its Cornell notes, guest speakers, and college field trips; that first class became like a second family to me. I wasn’t very good with making friends, I’ve always been a pretty awkward person, but we all bonded so much that we often spent time sharing our dreams and aspirations (even those which we wouldn’t dare to speak before). No one would judge, only support, and AVID had become a sort of safe haven for all the students. But it was not all games and bonding all the time. AVID really pushed each and everyone of us to do our best in all our classes. Before, I hadn’t focused in school. My grades would drop extremely low and I would manage to scoop them up to a minimum pass at the last minute, sometimes it wouldn’t quite make it to a pass. With AVID, however, although I still had the bad habit of letting things slip sometimes I mostly was able to keep them up. And even if they did slip it wouldn’t be as bad as before. I became a better student and the future didn’t quite scare me as much. In fact, it was starting to come into view. I found something I really enjoyed doing; drawing. I realized my dream of becoming an artist someday. I was so happy to be able to escape into this world; I could make anything I wanted! And sometimes that ended up being my downfall. Becoming distracted with this in class proved to be another problem, but AVID helped me through that and I stayed on track. I was happy with where I was going and how my future was forming. Once it had been darkness, but now I was starting to see the shapes and colors of where I will go in life. That eighth grade year was big for me. That first AVID class is what really changed me.

The next few years were good too. Some students left, some new ones joined, we were all mixed together and I had to make a whole new family. I admit that we weren’t quite as close, but we were all pretty good friends. I stayed focused and worked hard throughout freshman year. The habits AVID taught me had stuck and I continued to use them. The same goes for sophomore year. This year has proved to be much more difficult. Although I am having a bit of a difficult time at the moment, I’m sure that with the help of AVID, I will pull through. In all, Advancement Via Individual Determination proved to be an important step in my life to finding myself and success. With AVID, I can see my future more clearly and I am on my way to making it happen.