For the Sparks Tribune
For 19-year-old Grecia Anaya, much of her college success is owed to teachers of the AVID program at Sparks High School.
"They're (AVID teachers) the ones that motivated you," she said.
Anaya, a junior business major at the University of Nevada, Reno who is a 2007 alumni of the AVID program from Sparks High School, said AVID prepared her for what college had in store: learning how to take notes and be more organized.
The Advancement Via Individual Determination program, or AVID, is a college prepatory program that provides academic instruction and support to historically underrepresented students for eligibility to four-year colleges and universities.
The mission of AVID for Sparks High is to ensure that all students are capable of completing a pathway to college.
Lynn Giomi, Sparks High’s AVID teacher, said the class teaches students from ninth to 12th grade how to improve organizational skills, student involvement in community service and teach average students how to achieve academic excellence.
AVID has been at Sparks High for 10 years. Since its inception in 1998, AVID has served 1,200 students. Students enrolled in AVID from 2008-2009 had an average grade point average of 3.0 versus their non-AVID classmates who averaged 2.58. In art and music electives from this past school year, AVID participants had an average 3.7 GPA compared to their non-AVID classmates with a 2.87.
Thirty Sparks High students graduated from AVID in 2009, of which 29 were accepted into a two-year or four-year college or university. In addition to the Millennium Scholarship, they received $118,000 in scholarship funds.
But with significant budget cutbacks to the program, fewer students are being allowed into the class. Giomi said last year there were nine sections of AVID with two teachers; this year, there are five sections with one teacher.
In late March, Giomi was told by Sparks High Principal Doug Parry that money would be taken away from AVID, due to budget cuts from the school district. Parry’s first responsibility was to ensure staffing for the core subjects at the high school.
Giomi said she was honest with her students about the budget cuts and fears the class will be even smaller next year.
“It’s important for them to know the realities,” she said. Giomi and Sparks High reached out to the community and asked for help to keep funding their program. The Sparks Chamber of Commerce and R&R Partners, a marketing communications firm in Nevada, looked at ideas to raise money for AVID.
“(AVID) needs a stable source of funding,” said Pati Falk, senior director for Washoe Country School District Area 5 that oversees Sparks High and Reed High School.
Falk said AVID stands for the mission of the school district, so helping to find funding for the program is vital. Graduation rates have increased and dropout rates have decreased with the program and makes students college-ready.
“It is so promising,” Falk said.
Giomi said since the budget cuts, weekly tutors are now students from UNR.
She said that Dr. Margaret Ferrara from UNR’s College of Education offered assistance.
Sam DiSalvo, a sophomore education minor at UNR, said tutoring for AVID is a requirement for her introduction to secondary education class. She sees it as more than a requirement.
“You work closely and intimately with the students,” she said. “You have to establish a relationship with them first.”
DiSalvo said AVID helps students be more concise with organizing and writing.
“It’s a good prep for college,” she said.
Regardless of the budget cutbacks, Giomi loves what she’s doing and said it’s important that the students have someone around who believes in them.
“I love that you’re teaching kids, not academics,” she said.