Students tell the story of how AVID changed their future
Students tell the story of how AVID changed their future
Posted on 05/31/2019
Students with medalsAVID changes lives!

It is a common theme shared by students who talk about life before and after they took part in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) in Utica Community Schools. 

The before is characterized as a time when the students had aspirations to pursue further education, but needed the tools and support systems to realize their goals.

The after is represented by high expectations and the understanding that post-secondary experiences are critical to future success. 

“AVID addresses the very heart of our mission and what we value as a community – creating more opportunities for our graduates by preparing them for successful post-secondary experiences,” Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns said. 

AVID was introduced in 2012 in Utica Community Schools as a means to support students through the research-based college readiness system. UCS is one of only six school districts in Michigan with AVID. 

By being placed into rigorous courses with support from the AVID elective classes, students make significant gains in their academic achievement.

AVID stresses the development in key areas of organization, study skills, and critical thinking. Students also participate in motivational activities that promote the importance of continuing education after their high school diploma.

AVID was first introduced to 60 students at Jeannette Junior High School and Stevenson High School. Several years later, the success of AVID is clear:

The more than 500 students participating in AVID this year represents a 700 percent  enrollment increase since its inception. AVID has expanded to now include students at Davis and Eppler Junior High Schools and Henry Ford II and Utica high schools. 

Every senior in AVID this year has applied to a four-year college. Sixty-one percent are enrolling in a four-year college, with the remaining students attending a community college, trade school or a certification program. 

AVID students have earned $1 million this year alone in scholarships.

Beyond the numbers, AVID is opening doors for UCS graduates by challenging them to reach their full potential. 

Below are six of these stories. 

Sandra AlKateb

The dream of a college education started more than six years ago for Sandra AlKateb.  It wasn’t until enrolling in AVID, however, that her dream began taking shape as a reality. 

As a sixth grader in Iraq, AlKateb set her goal on becoming a doctor. However, the notion of college seemed in the distance. 

“I didn’t know what was going on until I met my AVID family,” AlKateb said. “It allowed me to expand and find a place where I belong, determine the best college for me and how to get there.”

AlKateb will be attending Oakland University to study premed next year. She said that in addition to giving her the resources to meet her immediate goals, AVID has given her skills that will be with her for a lifetime. 

“I’m a much better communicator and I have more confidence,” she said.

AlKateb recently started a club at Utica High School which allows students to learn how music crosses cultures and creates an avenue for communication. 

“I want to be a good example - someone in the community that helps everyone,” she said. 

Destiny Jackson 

Through AVID, Destiny Jackson found purpose in education.

“Before AVID, I felt that school was just a place,” she said. “Now I feel like I can improve myself and become a better person. I like learning.”

Now, her life’s dream of working with animals is a step closer as she leaves Stevenson High School to pursue a degree in zoology at Ball State. 

She credits AVID with opening this door by providing avenues for scholarships. She has benefited from the leadership for students and the skills important to in college and career, including public speaking. 

“AVID pushes you to want to do better and be a better person,” she said.  

Dylan Karam

Seven years ago, Dylan Karam was earning average grades and “the future wasn’t something I thought about.”

Enter AVID. 

Karam said once he entered the AVID as a student at Davis Junior High School, he began to find his achievement and his confidence growing when it came to education. 

“It gave me the skills I needed to be successful, like organization and study habits,” he said. “It gives you the tools you need to learn.”

Now, with graduation around the corner, Karam is planning to begin his post-secondary career objective by attending Macomb Community College and Ferris State University to study engineering. 

“AVID has allowed me to push myself to the limit,” he said. “It really is a family. We keep an eye on each other and support each other.” 

Alivia Powell

Family is always there to unconditionally support you. Family members challenge each other to be the best they can be. 

AVID is family for Alivia Powell.

“It has helped me realize that I don’t have to set my standard low and I am able to take on hard classes with the support system that they built for us,” she said.  

Now bound for Central Michigan University to study Public Relations, Powell said before AVID “college was not really on my radar. I really thought I would just get the basics. Now I know I need more.” 

The “more” was realized when Powell began taking college prep courses such as Advanced Placement and focusing more on increasing her high school GPA. 

Kelly Puentes 

For Kelly Puentes, AVID was  in the right place at the right time.

A first-year AVID student, the course recommended to her by friends during a challenging time in her family. 

“I was told about how it could help you grow as a person and get your ready for college - and that is what I needed,” she said. 

The Stevenson junior said her classmates are an integral part of making sure their classmates take risks and meet high personal standards.

Puentes credited AVID with helping her take first place in the Michigan Social Studies Olympiad.

 “You learn how to be a leader here,” she said.  “The comfortable environment that you have in AVID makes sure you succeed in whatever task you are doing.” 

Through AVID, Puentes said her increased focus and confidence have improved her grade point average and had a dramatic impact on her SAT. 
She said she will be the first in her family to attend college. 

“Everyone here is on top of us trying to make us do well and get us to graduate,” she said. “Education is the number one thing in my life. No dream is too big for me to reach.” 

Georgia Youhanan 

Before AVID, continuing her education after high school was not on Georgia Youhanan’s radar.  

Now, Youhanan will be the first in her family to continue her education as she pursues a career in pharmacy. 

“I was going to go ahead and find a job somewhere,” she said.  “After I got into the AVID program, I was challenged to do more - they want to help you put your best foot forward.”

Youhanan will be attending Macomb Community College next year and then move to Oakland University as she pursues a career she feels will allow her to make a difference through providing medical support.

She said she began AVID after moving to Stevenson and Michigan two years. During that time, AVID has challenge her to consider and own the importance of college.

AVID has not only provided her the foundation for a college education through a rigorous curriculum, but also has given her practical support for the process of applying to college – such as, transcripts, scholarships and the SAT. 

“I’ve learned not to be afraid of anything – to reach for your dreams,” she said.