The Wakulla County school system was fortunate to be visited by Granger Ward, the Executive Vice President of AVID worldwide on November 15, 2011.
AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is an internationally successful college preparation program that began in the 1980s with one teacher in one classroom who saw college potential in students who were capable but not well prepared for college, or who were not encouraged to take college prep classes. Many AVID students will be the first generation in their family to graduate from college.
As AVID's Executive Vice President, Mr. Ward oversees all AVID divisions worldwide. The AVID system is now in place in more than 4,500 middle and high schools serving more than 400,000 AVID students throughout the United States and Department of Defense schools worldwide.
This is the third year that Wakulla has implemented the AVID program which now serves students in 8th grade at Wakulla Middle School with teacher Katherine Spivey and at Riversprings Middle School with teacher Donna Sullivan.
At Wakulla High School, teacher Nancy Floyd Richardson has 10th and 11th grade students and Melinda House teaches 9th grade students. Twelfth grade will be added for 2012-2013 when the first students to have AVID for four years will graduate.
Over 175 Wakulla students participate in the AVID elective class and there will be 225 next year, but hundreds more students benefit from AVID strategies used district wide in grades 6 through 12 by their teachers. The purpose of the program is to support determined, capable students in their academic classes through improving their writing, inquiry, reading, and collaborative skills.
Students are taught to seek out the answers themselves through critical thinking skills and to embrace taking rigorous Advanced Placement and dual enrollment classes that will prepare them for success once they get to college. They are encouraged to get organized by using binders and planners, as well as by taking notes in Cornell Note format to use later as study guides.
Mr. Ward met with some AVID students from all three schools as he was hosted at Wakulla Middle School. He shared his own background as a first generation college graduate from the Bronx in New York City. One teacher made all the difference in his life when she would not accept any less than his best, encouraging him that he could do better and do more with his life than what he imagined.
He graduated from a public high school in New York City and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, in Syracuse. He went on to earn his Masters degree from Syracuse University and his Administrative Credential is from the State University of New York at Oswego. After working as a teacher and then a principal, Mr. Ward became superintendent of the Manhattan High Schools in the City of New York, and later superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego, California. Both are highly populated school districts.
He also was a good role model for Wakulla students to not neglect their personal dreams as he told them about becoming a licensed pilot, a father of grown twin daughters and a recent grandfather for the first time. One of his daughters is a doctor and the other is a lawyer, showing how the impact teachers had in his life spurring him on to give his best effort in school affects generations to come.
Superintendent David Miller advocated for Wakulla County school system to be one of Florida’s first rural districts chosen for The Florida Partnership with the College Board grant. The grant has been renewed for three years due to Wakulla’s effective use of grant dollars. The AVID program has played a big role in preparing students for success in Advanced Placement and college dual enrollment classes.
Noted Superintendent Miller, “AVID has proved to be one of the most successful programs I have seen in my career. It gives students the confidence to succeed not only in academics, but also to believe that they can take on leadership roles in their schools, and ultimately in our society.”
Mr. Ward's responsibilities also include the expansion of AVID Elementary, AVID's Postsecondary program, AVID Demonstration Schools throughout the AVID world, and AVID Center partnerships with philanthropic organizations to generate grants and foundation work for AVID. Additionally he supports AVID Summer Institutes, and contributes to the development of AVID Center's national legislative relations.
It was an honor to have Mr. Ward make a special trip to Wakulla as he was visiting Tallahassee from California to meet with the Gerard Robinson, Florida’s Commissioner of Education, among other state officials.
Top Right: Granger Ward looks through binders with Riversprings Middle School AVID students Jessie Reyes and Herbert Franklin
Bottom Right: Granger Ward in back row center with Wakulla administrators, AVID teachers, and AVID student panel