When Ana Blanco joined the inaugural class of AVID in eighth grade, she thought it would help her get to college. Today, as we mark ten years since the launch of AVID in ACPS, Blanco is earning a master’s in criminal justice and is an interpreter with the Alexandria Police Department. She credits AVID with helping her get there.
The first in her family to go to college, Blanco’s parents were fully supportive of her goal, but lacked the first-hand experience to help her navigate the process. Through AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), she got the academic, social and emotional support she needed to chart her course and see it through.
Blanco is quick to point out that it’s not just about college readiness, it’s about learning skills and forming the relationships you need to succeed in life. She says the relationships she forged with the AVID team — particularly with her first year teacher, Ms. Duff — have been instrumental to her success and continue to this day.
Beginning AVID with Ms. Duff had a tremendous impact on me. Not only did she help me with Cornell notes and school work, she took me to my first job interview. She’s now ‘Mama Duff.’ I came back to work with her as a tutor for her students for three years while working on my bachelor’s degree. AVID made such an impact on my life that I wanted to give back to students who were starting AVID in the same place that I did, in middle school.”
Through AVID, Blanco applied and was accepted to 11 colleges and universities, with scholarships to all. A Class of 2014 T.C. Williams graduate, she went on to George Mason University where she earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in criminal science and a minor in Spanish. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree there in criminal justice policy — all while going to school and working full-time and now volunteering as an interpreter with the Alexandria Police Department. Inspired by the work of agents she saw highlighted during a visit to the Drug Enforcement Agency Museum when she was nine years old, she plans to work as a conduit between victims of human trafficking and the supports they need to help break the cycle.
I can still picture Ana on the very first day of AVID. I remember where she was sitting and how her eyes and ears listened and followed me so intensely. She was pure determination from day one. She knew what she wanted in life. And how beautiful for her to have come full circle. Ana and all the AVID students I had the privilege of forming a family with with always be dear to my heart,” said AVID teacher Diane Duff.
For the past ten years, AVID has been addressing equity and increasing access to college pathways for students who are typically underrepresented in four-year colleges, students in the academic middle and those who may be the first generation in the family to attend college. AVID ensures that students have the tools they need to succeed beyond high school.
AVID was life changing for me. If it wasn’t for AVID, I don’t think that I would be where I am. Early on, I didn’t really believe in myself, but AVID helped me see that I really did have potential. When you are first generation and you don’t know the way, and you have to fill out the financial aid forms and you don’t know the process to go to college — having that support and having these AVID teachers who genuinely care and want you to succeed, and push you and give you that boost of confidence that you need makes a huge difference,” said Blanco.
AVID is a school-wide college readiness system and elective for select secondary students that was first implemented in ACPS in 2008 at the middle school level before rolling up through high school. Since then, AVID has grown from being available at grades seven through nine, to grades six through 12. Initially offered at T.C. Williams High School and George Washington and Francis C. Hammond middle schools with an elective option, AVID has expanded to the elementary level at Jefferson-Houston School, Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, and Patrick Henry School for a total of six AVID schools. Next year, Patrick Henry will add the AVID Secondary elective, making them the first K-8 model in the state of Virginia. As a school-wide program, AVID works to transform how teachers teach and the systems that exist to support students, and improve equity, leadership and culture.
What does this mean for students?
It means that students like Blanco, who might be the first in their family to go to college, get the resources, supports and experience they need. The impact of AVID can be seen in increased student achievement, more equitable access to college pathways and increased enrollment in advanced academics and rigorous courses.
Last year alone:
- Ninety-eight percent of AVID students had been enrolled for three or more years
- Fifty-three percent of AVID students took a dual enrollment course and 85 percent took at least one Advanced Placement course
- One-hundred percent of AVID students graduated on time
- Ninety-seven percent of AVID students were accepted to two- or four-year colleges
- Ten AVID students received full scholarships
AVID is creating access to opportunities that might not otherwise be available to these students. AVID graduates from T.C. have gone on to attend top-tier schools, including Georgetown, Cornell and New York University.
Blanco’s sister, Jennifer, now a junior at T.C., was eager to join AVID in middle school after seeing the impact that it had on her big sister’s life. Through AVID, she’s carving her own path. She also plans to go to George Mason University and become an elementary school teacher.
Throughout this month and next, AVID will be marking the anniversary with events and activities in AVID schools and in AVID classrooms, including an AVID Showcase on March 5, from 8 a.m. to noon at Francis C. Hammond Middle School.
The AVID recruitment process is underway for next school year. Learn more about the AVID elective and the program qualifications and requirements.