AVID Provides Students a Support System for Next-Level Success 

Friday May 24, 2024

They have been described as students in the middle. B or C students for example, or those whose parents never pursued higher education. They have all the potential in the world but may need a little extra support to realize their full potential. They are AVID students — short for Advancement Via Individual Determination — a college prep elective program on campuses across Kern County and beyond. 

“AVID prepares students to be ready for the next step, whatever that next step may be,” said Gena Lieske, AVID’s countywide program leader, who supports dozens of AVID educators across the county. 

The program challenges students to rise to academic greatness by teaching them organization, study skills and critical thinking, as well as building self-confidence, trust, and other life skills like public speaking and financial literacy.

“It amazes me that many students that started the program in 7th grade were ‘middle students’ and end up being near the top of their class when they graduate, taking on leadership roles on campus and the community,” Lieske said.

That description sounds a lot like Highland High School senior Amy Alias. In middle school, Amy was a self-described average student. 

“I was very happy with a B,” she said. 

As a first-generation college student, the idea of attending a prestigious college always seemed out of reach to her. But thanks to AVID, she was set up for success. 

“I would never be the person I am today without the motivation from my classmates and my AVID teacher who always believed in me and noticed when I was struggling or needed extra motivation to keep moving forward,” she said. 

Amy will graduate next week with a 4.33 GPA and attend UC Berkeley in the fall, her dream school, where she plans to major in Political Science and aspires to be a lawyer in the ag industry one day. 

“I know I can achieve this because AVID gave me all the grit needed to push through difficult times,” she said. “I can say I am confident that I will be a great fit in whatever role is thrown my way.” 

Amy Alias

Students in Taft High School’s AVID program are like family.

Meanwhile at Taft High School, graduating senior Lily Jones could not say enough great things about her four-year AVID experience. She entered high school with no idea where she wanted to go to college, what she wanted to do, or how she was supposed to figure it all out in four years. 

“I adored every inch of the program,” Lily said. “It has taught me all about college, careers, my future goals, interviewing, scholarships, financial aid, and anything else you could think of to get ready to enter the next chapter of my life.”

Sarah Long is Lily’s senior seminar AVID teacher. She said that community service and collaboration amongst students is also a key ingredient of the program. In Taft, there is a robust community service program that culminates in a senior project wherein students identify a need in the community and involve other people to alleviate that need. 

Lily Jones

“Our students really do a lot of good,” Long said. “It is such a beneficial program. I wish all schools had AVID.”

About half of Kern’s 46 school districts offer AVID on selected campuses.  

Long explained that AVID focuses on Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading — known as WICOR. These are integrated into students’ daily schedules by teaching them how to organize their materials and time, while engaging in frequent reflection on goals and processes. All of these are real-world skills are designed so they can be ready for college and/or the workforce.

I can easily say it’s the best choice I’ve ever made in terms of my high school career.

— Amy Alias

Taft High School’s 2024 graduating AVID students.

Lieske said students in the program become like a family. 

“They grow together and are there for each other during the highs and lows of growing into a young adult,” she said.

Lily discovered this first-hand. She recalls being denied admittance into her dream school, Cal Poly SLO, earlier this year.  

“I was devastated,” she said. “It hurt more than anything and made me feel unsure about the next few years of my life.”

But her AVID family had her back and the program opened up new opportunities. With the help of her AVID advisor and her peers, she found a plan B, which in hindsight she is overjoyed about.

“Without AVID, I would not be the person I am today and would be unable to feel so assured of attending UC Davis to study food science,” she said. 

Both Lily and Amy said they would wholeheartedly recommend AVID to any student, whether they plan to attend college or not. 

“Just do it!” an enthusiastic Amy said. “I can easily say it’s the best choice I’ve ever made in terms of my high school career.”

By Robert Meszaros

By Robert Meszaros

Rob Meszaros is Director of Communications for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, where he has served since 2012. In his role, Meszaros oversees media relations, internal and external communication strategies, publications, Marcom, branding, and multi-media content creation. Before joining KCSOS, Meszaros was the PIO for CSU Bakersfield and earlier worked for seven years at The Bakersfield Californian.