PUHSD continues efforts to reach underrepresented students

Students gather around tables to work on homework at Bioscience High School on Aug. 31, 2016. (Nick Serpa/DD)

The Advancement Via Individual Determination program to reach underrepresented students continues to grow in Phoenix Union High School District.

AVID, as it is commonly known as, is a national program that focuses on high school success and college readiness for students who are traditionally underrepresented in college applications. The program is designed to reach students in the middle of the academic population, who are willing to work hard and have a desire to go college.

It is common for these students to be the first in their family to attend college and come from families with a lower socioeconomic status, according to the National AVID Secondary Center.

There are 41 districts that useAVID in Arizona with 180 sites. Out of almost 32,000 elementary and secondary AVID students in Arizona, 66 percent of students are a part of the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, according to the program’s 2016- 2017 Arizona Snapshot Data.

Zachary Muñoz, AVID Director for Phoenix Union High School District, was one of the first administrators to start the program in 2000. At the time, Muñoz was the principal at North High School and said he was intrigued by what AVID provided and how it reached to those students in the middle of the academic population who don’t normally get that much attention. Muñoz also started the AVID program at Fairfax High School.

“It’s established, and it’s proven over the years to do what it says it will do,” Muñoz said.

The program systematically teaches students how to be successful in higher level math, English and social studies courses. AVID provides lesson plans and guidelines for teachers from the first day of school freshmen year to last day of senior year, according to Muñoz.

“It pulls potential out of kids who have never had that done to them before, changing their culture and belief system about college,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz has now seen North High School to grown to be recognized as an AVID National Demonstration School.

To be acknowledged as a National Demonstration School, the school goes through a validation process to be approved as an “exemplary model” of the AVID College Readiness System. Every few years, the school must be revalidated to ensure the quality of implementation.

There are 175 AVID National Demonstration Schools across the United States and nine are in Arizona, including North High School.

“It truly is a remarkable program,” Muñoz said, “The results speak for themselves.”

Anna Ruiz, AVID coordinator at North High School, said the program at her school has grown from two classes to 11 classes since the program started. She also said 100 percent of the AVID seniors at the school have graduated high school.

In PUHSD last year, 83 percent of AVID seniors applied to college and 72 percent were accepted to college.

Cynthia Gonzalez, a North High School senior who has been in the program since her freshmen year, credits the program for her dedication as a student.

“It has helped me be on top of all my classes,” Gonzalez said. “If I didn’t have AVID, I wouldn’t be worried about certain things and pushing to be better.”

Denise Campbell, Arizona and New Mexico State AVID Director said the strength of the program is because of “the constant updating of methodology, the updating of curriculum based on new research that is out there.”

In August, PUHSD started an AVID centered high school, the first of its kind in the nation. At Phoenix Union-Wilson College Prep every student is in the program following the AVID curriculum.

Muñoz is confident it will be successful and plans on continuing to expand the program to more high schools within the district.

Contact the reporter at aetarple@asu.edu.