By Peter Day
LUCERNE VALLEY, Calif. — AVID, formally known as Advancement Via Individual Determination, is transforming the present and future of many Lucerne Valley Middle High School students. Those helping the AVID students — who are setting their sights on college or technical training, and beyond — are rewarded as well.
Lucerne Valley’s corp of AVID tutors consists of current and previous Lucerne Valley AVID students and others who have answered the call. Two Lucerne Valley alumni, Annabelle Fox and Yisel Buenrostro, are joined by Apple Valley post-graduate student Justin De Santiago. Fox and Buenrostro currently are students at Victor Valley College while De Santiago — known by the students as “Mr. J” — is currently in a Master’s program after starting college at VVC and transferring to Cal Poly Pomona University for his bachelor’s degree.
College-aged tutors all went through the process of applying, interviewing and getting finger-printed. The tutors are paid an hourly wage for their services.
“It is amazing for our school district to have a budget to help AVID hire some tutors this year,” said 9th grade AVID teacher Linda Schlenz.
Additionally, five “cross age” tutors — current students at Lucerne Valley High — are sharing their knowledge with current AVID students. Senior tutors are Lacey Kalinowski and Samantha Sidney. Juniors are Walter Williams, Jenese Alarcon and Jasmine Villanueva.
“Our cross age tutors do not get credit, but they do get ‘helping hands’ hours as tutors, and being an AVID tutor looks great on their college and scholarship applications,” said the LVMHS AVID coordinator Naomi Oyadomari.
All tutors attended an AVID tutor training at Oak Hills High School in late October and participated in an 8-hour training session by AVID support staff in the process of tutorials. They will go back in January for advance follow-up tutor training.
TUTORS BENEFIT AS WELL
Whether still in high school or pursuing a college degree, all AVID tutors are benefiting from their experience.
“Working with AVID will strengthen one's applications for future colleges, as well as improve one's resume' for a job,” Schlenz said. “There is a degree of earning trust and confidence with students, increasing the capacity of solving problems, and supporting students to success through the AVID tutoring program. One's character is essential to benefitting the students during tutorials.”
For the tutors, the experience is eye-opening. The AVID program emphasizes writing, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills. An elective class, AVID utilizes the WICOR method — writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. That is especially evident during Lucerne Valley AVID class sessions, which beginning this year are held in a dedicated classroom on the Lucerne Valley High School campus.
De Santiago, who has the most tutoring experience of the college-aged tutors, says his experience at Lucerne Valley is a rewarding one.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this,” said De Santiago, who is eyeing a career in either counseling or teaching.
Although he’s not the first in his family to go to college, he relates to the Lucerne Valley AVID students. His mother, Letty De Santiago, was the first in her family to attend college, graduating from the University of Southern California’s prestigious dental hygiene program after starting her college career at VVC. Today, she is part of the Parkway Dental Group in Apple Valley.
“She inspires me,” De Santiago said of his mother.
During class, the tutors help facilitate sessions in which AVID students bring especially difficult problems, usually math. The student goes to the white board and jots down the problem. By the end of the session, the AVID session will write down the solution. Tutors such as De Santiago, who has taken classes in calculus and other upper math subjects, generally sit back and watch high school AVID students help each other with the process of finding answers and solutions.
“When they can actually help each other, it’s pretty impressive,” De Santiago said. “This whole process is group work. We’re a team.”
The confidence AVID students find is life-changing in school, and out.
“It gives them the courage to ask teachers questions,” Schlenz said, “and they are more naturally supportive of one another. When I went to school I was too afraid to raise my hand.”
Schlenz has seen her students’ grades rise, sometimes dramatically.
“A 2.5 (GPA) jumps to 3.5, a 3.0 jumps to 4.0,” she said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Besides Mrs. Schlenz and Ms. “O,” the AVID teacher team includes Matt Roehl and Kelli Papiernik. On Tuesday and Thursday, Mrs. Schlenz teaches the 4th period, Mrs. Papiernik oversees 5th period, and Mr. Roehl, 6th period. Oyadomari teaches AVID to middle school students on Mondays and Wednesdays during 6th period.
Though the AVID tutor program is new at Lucerne Valley, the results from their assistance have been impressive.
“Our tutors have been wonderful and have jumped into their roles,” Oyadomari said. “They’ve been a huge asset already to our students.”
Peter Day is a social media advisor for the Lucerne Valley Unified School District.