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Popular college prep program faces cloudy future
July 11, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

AVID, a college-readiness program offered to middle and high school students throughout the state, faces an unsure future after funding was cut from the final California budget.

When forwarded to the governor, the proposed state budget included $8.1 million for Advancement Via Individual Determination, known as AVID, which offers college preparation for students in fourth grade through high school. Gov. Jerry Brown cut the funding as part of $195.7 million in line-item vetoes made prior to the signing of the budget. Unless there is a veto override by the Legislature, the cut impacts 1,400 school sites throughout the state and 19 in San Mateo County. Locally, education officials hope to keep the program going but it may be a challenge with budgets being cut.

"AVID has been a key factor in helping at-risk high school students successfully complete school and move on to college so it’s a program that will definitely be missed at the many high school campuses in San Mateo County that have had successful AVID programs,” County Superintendent Anne Campbell said if the program was to be cut.

Students should have access to AVID at least through the upcoming school year.

Robin Kisinger, California Division Director for the AVID program, wrote in a June 29 letter to local AVID leaders that support for the California program sites "will remain intact during the 2012-13 school year, and during that time AVID Center will work to transition schools and districts to a model similar to our national design.”

San Mateo County is part of a regional AVID office that helps coordinate opportunities for staff training. Gary Waddell, deputy superintendent of instructional services for the San Mateo County Office of Education, expects that will be handled differently going forward.

Ten districts in San Mateo County — Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary, Cabrillo Unified, Pacifica, Ravenswood City, San Bruno Park, San Carlos Elementary, San Mateo-Foster City Elementary, San Mateo Union High School, Sequoia Union High School and South San Francisco Unified — offer the AVID program.

San Mateo Union, which offers AVID at nearly all its sites, plans to find a way to keep the program going, said Elizabeth McManus, deputy superintendent of business services.

"AVID has been very successful to students,” she said. "It really engages kids in the right way. We don’t want to lose that.”

Don Bush, AVID coordinator at Aragon High School, explained the program works well with students who are often in the middle — B or C students who want to do better. In the last three years, 95 percent of its students, on average, were accepted to four-year colleges. The hope is to begin working with students and their parents freshman year so they cannot only be accepted to college but have the tools needed to graduate from it, he said.

Many students try to enter senior year for the applications and scholarship support but Bush noted the program offers a lot of curriculum help as well such as organization and note-taking skills.

"These kids are really trying hard. ... They want to compete with everyone else and go to the four-year colleges. They just need that boost,” said Bush.

Sequoia Union Superintendent James Lianides said the district will continue to offer the program in the coming school year, since plans have already been approved to protect the program.

AVID was created in 1980 by former San Diego English teacher Mary Catherine Swanson. Across the country, AVID has helped more than 425,000 students. Students in AVID are often economically disadvantaged and the first in their families to go to college.

"AVID is great for students who could fall through the cracks but have great potential,” said Waddell, who added the program isn’t easy for students. It often requires students to take difficult classes and take part in tutorials instead of traditional electives.

Overall, 91.3 percent of AVID graduates plan to enroll in college. Nearly all of the AVID students in San Mateo County, 99 percent, plan to enroll in college. In the 2010-11 school year, 93.4 percent of San Mateo County AVID students completed the requirements needed to go to a four-year college, a bit higher than the general student population.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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