High School Class Instilling Confidence in Columbia Students

Related Story

COLUMBIA- A program at the new Battle High School has parents speechless and students beaming with a confidence they never thought they could have. The program is called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).

Students can take AVID as an elective class at the high school. The school requires students to complete an application and interview process to get a chance at a seat in the class.  Not all students who apply get in. Successful applicants show eagerness to learn and a determination to succeed. Battle High School AVID coordinator and instructor Rachel Bennett said the biggest factor faculty look for in the students is the willpower to do better. Bennett said it is never an easy task to decide who will participate in the program, but that once the class is together, it is clear each student is there for a reason. 

The students enrolled in AVID consist of all ethnicities, backgrounds and socioeconomic levels, but share one common characteristic--the desire to attend college after high school. For some students, a goal of graduating from high school is first on their list, but through the encouragement of their classmates, upgrading that desire means it often becomes attending their dream college instead. 

The AVID program is used throughout high schools nationally, including Columbia's Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools. The national outline for the class provides a college-readiness agenda, which focuses on preparing students for college entrance exams, completing applications and building their resumes. This is accomplished by teaching the students to use "WICOR strategies"--an acronym for writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. Students are also required to participate in extracurricular activities and volunteering. 

The Battle High School program offers an additional part to students' coursework focused on life skills. This part of the class provides effective communication skills which can be used during conflict and uncomfortable encounters. Students are encouraged to communicate the way they're feeling through certain word choices while working out disagreements with family members or peers. One AVID parent said she has noticed a completely different side of her daughter, Asia Plagman, at home since she joined the class.

Melody Plagman said, "Her communication skills have improved a lot and our communication has improved due to her learning better communication skills."

Melody Plagman said not only have her daughter's communication skills improved, but she has learned from her daughter and is using better communication skills with her whole family.

Another special component of the Battle High School AVID class is the support system they call their "AVID Family." Asia Plagman said she learned what a true friend is for the first time this year, through the relationships she has developed in the AVID classroom. Asia Plagman said, "It's reassuring when someone else in class tells a story that sounds like something that has happened in your life. It sounds like she is telling your story. And it's times like those when we realize we are each other's real family."

The students are quick to pin their success on the support of their AVID Instructor Rachel Bennett, but Bennett insists she is the luckiest person in the classroom.

Bennett said, "I feel like the fortunate one because I get to work with 44 of the most amazing students we have in our building, who are determined to be the best they can be. They really help me be a better educator and a better person."

The AVID program has seen such success in the last year, almost all students enrolled in the program have seen improved grades. An eagerness to be part of AVID has increased as well. The program currently has 44 freshman and sophomores enrolled this year. So far, there have been more than 100 applications to be part of AVID for the 2015-2016 school year.