The AVID classes from all four grades gather on one day of the week for a Fun Friday event. This weekly exercise continues to strengthen the connection Lynden High AVID student share across every grade and highlight the powerful work happening within this four-year elective.
What is AVID?
A nationwide program offered at Lynden, students apply to join the class that then places a focus on helping them develop the skills, strategies and mindset to achieve in their post-high school education path.
An acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, the program empowers students to solve problems and access available resources.
“The path to college is not an easy one,” says Kevin Richins, a LHS teacher and AVID advisor for the Class of 2023. “There are expectations, deadlines and experiences that students need to have. When you may be the first person in your family that is planning on college, you may not have the knowledge about what you need to do to get there. Students in AVID learn what they need to do to qualify for college and to succeed when they get there.”
How does AVID work at LHS?
Students apply for the program and commit to participation in the class for four years. Richins says that as freshman the students aren’t often sure what their focus should be and don’t necessarily understand the value of all they are learning in AVID, but “as time has gone on, and they have matured, they are seeing more of what they are capable of, and how the choices they make now will impact their future.”
Richins says each of his students stretches themselves to take more challenging classes and work to do well in the classes they are in to point themselves to a college or training program.
Each class has an advisor that follows them throughout their four years. This year’s group includes Richins, Stephanie Garza working with the Class of 2025, Keith Soltman working with the Class of 2024 and Joanna Scott with the class of 2022.
Is AVID Successful?
Garza, who was the advisor for the AVID class of 2021 and now for the Class of 2025, says she has seen firsthand how the program helps bridge the gap between the students who have huge goals to continue in their education, but need the resources and tools to equip them to get there.
“My view of AVID has changed because I have heard back from so many of the 2021 graduates who are sharing the impact that AVID has had on their lives,” she says. “In the moment, I know that AVID is helping students, but teachers often don’t get to see the fruit of their labor in real time. As students have continued to contact me since they’ve graduated, I’m reminded of the great impact AVID truly does have. My approach has stayed the same: Relationships first. If a student knows I genuinely care about their well-being, the teaching part comes easy.”
Garza says that she sees a powerful growth from AVID students. “They display a level of confidence in their learning abilities, confidence in working with others and confidence within themselves,” she says, “that is usually not their when they first start high school.”
The Class of 2021 showed resilience through the difficulties of the pandemic and AVID graduates are now attending colleges from Whatcom Community College to Seattle Pacific University and Montana State University to the University of Arizona, among others.
What are Fun Fridays all about?
“The importance of Fun Friday is to build community across all grade levels of AVID,” Garza says. “It’s that simple.”
Richins says the grade level connections help the students learn they are part of something bigger than just their class while helping the underclassmen see where they are headed and let the upperclassmen show off leadership.
What’s been a popular Fun Friday event?
Richins and his class hosted an escape room event that was about collaboration and getting to know both others in AVID and the school building. Plus, the Class of 2023 wanted to invite a challenge into the mix. So, instead of a traditional escape room event, which wouldn’t work well with such a large group of students, they created a series of escape room-style puzzles based on subject areas of staff members. When a team finished one puzzle, they used the clue to move to the next one.
Richins says the students studied puzzles and codes and worked with staff to match puzzles to content-specific rooms in the building. After each puzzle, students received an envelope that contained directions to the next room and part of the combination to unlock the final lockbox at the end of the activity, a lockbox built by AVID Class of 2023 student Kamikaze Billings (all nine padlocks had to be opened to get to the prize inside).
Using leadership and communication, the Class of 2023 proved “thoughtful, detailed and caring as they developed their puzzles,” Richins says, and he “couldn’t be prouder of the work they did on this activity for their classmates.”