N Phoenix school puts AVID students on track
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 24, 2006

Betty Reid

PHOENIX - When Jessica Valenzuela heard she would be in advanced-placement classes in high school, she felt unprepared.

Jessica, 14, grew up speaking only Spanish and her mother has barely started learning English. But North Canyon High School in north Phoenix had enrolled her in August in a program called Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID.

She no longer gets stuck on geometry. Her notes also make sense because AVID trained her to take notes properly and how to review and summarize the notes so that she asks the right questions in class. advertisement The program, designed to place low-income students on the college track, has teachers, counselors and student tutors.

"I'm no longer scared of setting aside a problem because I'll get help from tutors," Jessica said.

Jessica said her mother does not come to the school because she speaks only Spanish.

North Canyon, in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, added AVID in 2005. Roughly 50 students are in AVID classes and spend 40 minutes a day learning how to take notes and other skills.

Many students are selected while they are in middle school or the beginning of their freshman year. Each must have a 2.0 to 3.5 grade-point average, good attendance and positive behavior.

At North Canyon High, AVID students are expected to enroll and be successful in at least one honors or advanced class by the time they are sophomores.

Arthur L. Greenway, North Canyon's assistant principal, said AVID changes students.

"You take these kids out of their comfort zone, that's how they grow," he said. "By the time they leave this program, they are very articulate, they are used to standing in front of a crowd, they look at you in the eye."

Tutors, for now, were recruited and trained from North Canyon's International Baccalaureate program. They are seniors Rahul Gunnala, 17, and Ryan Haines, 18.

"I have one student who struggled with percentages," Rahul said. "He got all the information, and he got all the answers but just didn't know how he did it. I helped him by starting him with the basics of percentages during AVID hour. I tested him and made sure he could do it."

An element of the program is parent involvement. To draw parents to North
Can- yon High, students put together a show for their parents four times a year called AVID Family Night. They sing, dance or perform a skit. During a recent show, AVID 10th-grade elective teacher Melissa Lopez coordinated a song and dance using music from Survivor.

Sophomore Laura Encinas, 16, said walking onto a large high school campus can be intimidating for a new student.

North Canyon High School frightened her as a freshman.

"The first time I went to biology class here, I was scared," Laura said. "I joined AVID, and it helped me. . . . I'm more confident learning."