By Adam Bollhoefer
I am a businessman, plain and simple. My business is futures – not of stocks and bonds – but of human capital. In my eight years of teaching, I have attained riches not often seen by most of humanity. I have seen how the investment of a kind smile and a caring ear can yield lifetimes of fulfillment. I think it would be in the best interest of readers to know that I was not born with any special talent. No, my path and ultimate claim to riches was paved by a program called AVID. AVID (or Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a college readiness system started in California over 30 years ago. Like most revolutionary concepts, it was started as a rejoinder to the inadequacies that have reared their ugly heads in our educational system. Education today has become more focused on the product, and less on the process. We want to create individuals who are able to compete on a global scale, but often times are leaving behind the education of the human being.
AVID’s goal is to educate the entire person, both educationally and personally. It is about self-construction, not mass production. Math, science, social studies, and English mean very little if there is not a well-rounded individual formed to receive all of this esteemed academic knowledge. By giving students an environment to encourage growth in the areas of writing, reading, and inquiry, AVID is creating solid academic foundations for students to stand on. These alone would be sufficient in the eyes of most educational institutions, but AVID takes it further. It then meticulously weaves the concepts of collaboration and organization throughout its system. By giving students opportunities to foster healthy relationships with other students, and creating well-refined systems of organization to keep it all together, AVID is honing lifelong skills for success.
The greatest part of all of this is that the students who are undertaking these noble feats would ordinarily not make waves, of any kind. They are the last students whose names are remembered by their teachers. They would usually not perform in class extraordinarily well, but also nothing poorly enough to warrant remembering. We call them the invisible middle, and AVID seeks them out to be no longer lost in a sea of students. AVID students typically have average to high test scores, average to high grades, and a desire to succeed in school. We take those students and help foster the skills necessary to tackle any challenge in life.
For many, this concept seems more like a pipe dream than reality, but AVID’s numbers speak for themselves. Nationally, 90% of all AVID students apply to four year universities, and 75% of those students are accepted. Nationally 30% of all students graduating in 2011 took at least one AP exam. 61% of all AVID students graduating in the same year took an AP exam.
At Timber Creek High School, the numbers are even more telling of successes by AVID students. 100% of AVID students at Timber Creek applied to four year universities in 2012 and 100% were also accepted. Of the graduates of Timber Creek in 2012, who were in AVID, 100% took at least four AP exams.
Investments can often times be considered risky for a multitude of reasons, but if your investment has a 90% chance of yielding positive results, is that not a risk worth taking? Abraham Lincoln stated that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. We have an obligation to our students to offer the best possible education with the highest possible interest. With programs like AVID, we can.
Adam Bollhoefer is the AVID coordinator and elective teacher at Timber Creek High School. He has been teaching for Orange County Public Schools for eight years. Along with teaching, Adam is a staff developer for AVID.