Anoka-Hennepin graduates first class of AVID students; program to expand in the fall

Standing before Anoka-Hennepin’s first graduating class of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students, Jeff McGonigal said he was really pleased with the graduates’ success.

"This is a ‘pinch yourself evening,’" said McGonigal, the associate superintendent of high schools who was principal of CRHS when AVID began. "I am so happy this event is taking place to bring light to your success."

Currently available at Champlin-Park (CPHS) and Coon Rapids (CRHS) high schools, as well as Coon Rapids, Jackson and Northdale middle schools, AVID is a college readiness system that provides students strategies for success in high school so they are prepared to excel in college. Although AVID serves all students, it focuses on the least served students in the academic middle. The formula is simple – raise expectations of students and, with the AVID support system in place, they will rise to the challenge.

CPHS graduated 24 AVID students and CRHS graduated 16. Almost all of the students have been accepted into college or have plans to attend college. The graduates were honored at a reception May 31 at Edinburgh Golf Course in Brooklyn Park. The event was sponsored by local business in Anoka, Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Park.

Deb Geiger, a CRHS English teacher and AVID coordinator, said CRHS’s AVID Class of 2012 was a diverse group held together with a common goal: a successful future full of possibilities. Geiger spoke about how each senior had a personal journey. She compared the types of challenges heroes in literature face and overcome to that of AVID students.

"It’s the challenges that always make a story interesting," Geiger said. "The AVID class graduates know they are ready for next the set of challenges that come their way. I am so proud of their hard work and growth."

Kohlman Thompson and Randi Sumstad spoke on behalf of the CRHS AVID students. Thompson will attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and plans to be a secondary English teacher. X will attend Anoka-Ramsey Community College and hopes to pursue a career in the dental field.

Thompson said over the years, success has been engrained into AVID students.

"We pushed each other to take harder classes," Thompson said. "We had each other to lean on."

Sumstad said that people have different views of success. AVID helps students to understand that college is part of their journey to success.

"We’ve grown to be young adults," Sumstad said. "We are a little scared but ready to take on what comes next. I’m not sure what will happen in the next 10 years, but I know we will still be reaching for dreams. And whenever a dream is reached there will always be another."

Justin Grinage, a CPHS English teacher and AVID coordinator, thanked everyone who make AVID possible as well as the students’ families for their support. For students he reminisced about the first day of class.

"I walked into class and was nervous and uncertain with what AVID was all about," Grinage said. "That first day I said we would become a family. Many of you didn’t believe me; I’m not sure I believed it myself, but in AVID training, that’s what they told us to say. But looking at you without reservation, I can call us a family.

"We pushed you to work as hard as possible and if not for the work and care for each other, you might not have met my high standards. You have accomplished more than I could imagine."

Grinage said the first class of AVID students has changed the educational journey for younger students and their work will benefit CPHS long after they are gone. He also has high hopes for the graduates’ futures.

"I am excited for your future because I know you will utilize the skills you have learned to change the world for the better," he said.

Seng-Chang Xiong spoke on behalf of CPHS AVID students. Graduating as an International Baccalaureate (IB) scholar with honors, Chang Xiong has a full scholarship to attend Augsburg College. Prior to AVID, Chang Xiong never imagined he would attend college.

When he started AVID, Chang Xiong said he thought poorly of himself, had low self-esteem and was slowly losing hope. Change Xiong said he was wondering where he belonged when AVID welcomed him with open arms. Chang Xiong spoke about how the AVID students, once strangers, have become family to him.

"Thank you for being a guiding light when I thought I lost my way," Chang Xiong said. "I am so proud of the hard work we’ve put in. There is not a feeling in the world that expresses what I feel."

Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, AVID will be offered in all Anoka-Hennepin high schools. Students interested in learning more about AVID should speak with their counselors.