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ABQ middle school avid about college prep

Truman Middle School Principal Michele Torres helps seventh-graders Kiana Martinez, 12, and Angela Martinez, 13. Truman was recently named as a demonstration school for AVID, a college readiness program. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Cheyenne Elwell, a seventh-grader at Truman Middle School, already knows she wants to go to college.

While it’s years away, the 13-year-old unhesitatingly and excitedly told the Journal that she is going to study psychology.

Her trajectory and focus are in part because of her AVID, or Advancement via Individual Determination, class.

AVID is a global college readiness program that preps kids for higher education with interpersonal communication skills and studying tools.

The aim is to teach students how to take effective notes, how to study, critically think about subject matter and organize and manage time, among other things.

At Truman, it’s more than just a class offering.

“We don’t have an AVID program. We are an AVID school,” principal Michelle Torres said.

Four years ago, the school hunkered down on spreading AVID tactics into all classrooms by incorporating one new strategy a year, Torres said.

Most Truman teachers across the school now teach with AVID systems that range from a specific type of focused note taking called Cornell Notes to “one-pagers” a type of cheat sheet that distills information on a topic into one page.

Students Ashley Huerta, center, and Isabel Covarrubias, right, work on research projects in Alicia Marler’s seventh-grade AVID class. AVID is a program that helps prepare students for college. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The middle school was recently recognized for this by being named an AVID demonstration school.

Just like it sounds, a demo school means Truman is a model for what a successful AVID program and school-wide culture looks like.

The school has already had visitors from other school districts in New Mexico observe the program, explained Torres. And now, after being named a demo school, the principal of four years is expecting even more people, likely from out of state, to visit the school.

To be named a demo school, AVID systems and practices have to reach beyond one class, explained AVID coordinator and eighth-grade AVID teacher Margie Milburn.

The AVID lens has to be worn schoolwide.

After all, Truman was named a demo school, not just a demo program.

This is the sixth year the school has offered the program, though, the first wave of APS schools launched AVID in 2009.

Truman is the second school in the state to be named an AVID demo school, following Santa Fe Capital High School.

And it is the first middle school in Albuquerque Public Schools – and one of the only in the Southwest for that matter – to receive the honor, Torres said.

Truman Middle School teacher Margie Wilburn stands in front of a board where students enrolled in the AVID program write the names of colleges and universities they want to attend. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

During a recent AVID class, and in between working on a project about Polish composer Frederic Chopin, Elwell said she likes AVID because of the support.

She knows that if she doesn’t understand something, her classmates will help her get there.

“Everything is about collaboration or teamwork,” she said.

That’s intentional, Milburn said.

“It creates a college bound culture within the school system,” she said.

In general, Truman uses “collaborative study groups” – another AVID buzz word – in which students do homework, identify where they need help and turn to their peers in class the next day for guidance.

Esmeralda Garibay, a Truman Middle School seventh-grader, works on a research project in Alicia Marler’s seventh-grade AVID class. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Laura Farris, math and science teacher, has seen this method increase quiz scores and boost confidence.

To get into AVID, students apply and are interviewed – not unlike college admissions. For Truman, about 145 seventh- and eighth-graders participate out of 980 students in the whole school.

Typically the program taps high achieving students, most among the first in their families to go to college. The idea is to help them navigate the often foreign process of academia.

Elwell said she is glad to be one of them, as AVID has become her favorite class.

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