For eighth-grader Felton Christopher, going to college is a no-brainer.


As a future zoologist, he knows his projected career path requires him to have a college degree. Since the sixth grade, he has been enrolled in AVID, which is an elective course at West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics that prepares students for the academic rigor associated with higher education. WMAAA offers the AVID program to students in grades 5 through 8, and Felton, along with several peers, is benefiting from the high standards set by the program and has confidence that he will succeed in high school and college.


What is AVID? Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is a global nonprofit organization that encourages holding students accountable to the highest standards while providing academic and social support so they will rise to the challenge. There are only six schools and districts in Michigan that currently participate in the AVID program. WMAAA’s offering grew out of a collaboration with Ottawa Area ISD which provided grant funding to support college and career readiness programs. 


“You get to learn with other people,” Felton says. “The class really helped me understand what I had to do to get into college, and also what I need to do to be successful during college.”


 “We saw an increase in overall grade-point average for our students enrolled in the program as well as an increase in organization skills and close reading strategies for all of our middle school students,” Cathy Cantu, former director for WMAAA, says. “The tangible benefits students receive are outstanding, but so are intangible benefits like self-confidence, determination and focus on the future.”


Cathy says based on the success of the program evidenced through data and the positive feedback received from students and teachers, WMAAA began training teachers under the AVID methodology and incorporated the program into the school as an additional opportunity for students to prepare for college and careers. WMAAA sustains the certification through their general fund. 


Students enrolled in the yearlong course incorporate sophisticated note-taking strategies, gain insight from representatives from many career fields, go on college tours, and get extra help for their main classes. The students gain invaluable information and insight that encourages academic and personal excellence.


“AVID’s focus on critical reading and writing, organization, collaboration and inquiry are all fundamental skills,” Cathy says. “It certainly helps students begin to navigate what the future may look like.”


Students feel encouraged to learn in a ‘’going-to-college” culture that enriches the classroom allowing them to better visualize higher education as a part of their future.


The environment is also very collaborative in nature. The teacher poses questions to the class, and students have the opportunity to answer the questions for prizes. If no one knows the answer, the teacher will take time to help explain.


“It’s a very easy atmosphere. We know we’re here to learn to clarify certain points we don’t understand, but it’s still a super fun setting.” eighth-grader Grace Teuling, says. “AVID is like a head start I would not have had otherwise.” 



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