Kyla DeLeon, 17, wants to go to study business next year when she graduates high school, perhaps at San Diego State, Westmont College or Sonoma State. Triston Perez, 16, wants to go study computer engineering, perhaps at Chico State or Channel Islands.
Both are juniors in the AVID program at Arroyo Grande High School. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It provides classes, teachers and support, encouraging students whose parents didn’t go to college or graduate from high school, to prepare for college.
Triston started AVID in seventh grade, while Kyla started in eighth grade. Besides attending special AVID classes, students are taken by bus each year to visit colleges around California.
“Our classroom is very tight-knit, like a family,” said Triston.
“AVID helps you be connected — be involved in the school,” Kyla said.
AVID teachers Ms. Ackermann and Mr. Anderson told Kyla she needed more involvement. “If you’re connected more in school, you’ll enjoy being at school more,” they told her.
So Kyla joined LINK Crew: “We help do freshman orientation make freshmen feel welcomed.”
Triston joined the Boys and Girls Club. “All my friends are there. It’s helped me be more outgoing,” and provides a place to do homework and hang out.
Triston and Kyla both maintain a high GPA and take Advanced Placement classes such as physics, language, algebra 2 and history. The AVID class period provides help with homework and research papers, pushing students to prepare for college-level work.
AVID students also help with fundraising. Each fall there is an AVID barbecue; they run prom by selling tickets and corsages; and hold a spring Doc Burnstein’s ice cream fundraiser.
People from the community help tutor the students, including former superintendent and AGHS principal Mike Sears and former counselor chairperson Judy Leonard. Joe Lococo is AVID director and spoke enthusiastically about the program.
Lococo said it’s designed for low-income families. Many of the students come from single-parent and/or troubled families. They often have a lot to overcome.
“The kids are determined to be successful in spite of troubles,” he said. Staff encourages the kids to make responsible choices. Most of them are entitled to financial aid.
One of the best parts of the program is the graduates who come back as successors. They work with the students, talk with them and motivate them to do well. They are called “older brothers and sisters. We call each other ‘family,’” Lococo said.