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From AVID to App

By Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar, AVID site team community member, DeLeon Middle School, founder eJucomm, McAllen, Texas

Juntos somos como familia. Together we are like family. First I earned their trust. I attended their quincenerias and, because of AVID, would be seated at their high school and college graduation. They are my AVID students, and I served as their AVID teacher at DeLeon Middle School in McAllen, Texas. I call that the hardest part -the part in an educator’s journey where you build a relationship with students. After that it’s what I call “cake.” They produce academically. That’s delicious. My students entered my classroom hardened from a life of second languages and stereotypes of minority status. To them they were not equal. They were less than. They didn’t believe in themselves like I believed in them. They had no reason to trust that they were going to be successful in advanced classes and they weren’t, at first. But then they were, and now they are.

We, at DeLeon Middle School, knew that AVID called for reform. It was an overhaul of instructional strategies and a reminder that people will rise to an expectation if given opportunity and support. Support from teachers and peers was sufficient for our students but temporary. We knew we needed la familia, the family. We began teaching them. We taught our parents because they were equipped to love, but ill equipped to academically support their advanced student. We served them food and had some talks.

Talks that included the importance of parent involvement in the academic success of their child. Talks about the importance of getting their children involved in what was happening on our campus. We talked. They listened. Our kids began playing sports and singing in the choir. Our parents sat in PTO meetings and attended Meet the Teacher Night. When we communicated, they were there with openness in their hearts to forever change their family name from one of field workers to scientists and mathematicians.

Our campus communication with our AVID parents was fundamental to our parental involvement but, because of our socioeconomic diversity, we had to communicate in various, timely, and costly manners. From archaic newsletters and postage to posting on our website and all the in-betweens filled with flyers and voice messages; we knew it was imperative to communicate but our resources were slim. Parental involvement and communication with our AVID parents made a remarkable difference in the success of our students. That, along with countless research papers stating the positive effects of parental involvement, was enough of a reason for me to explore a more efficient, effective, and innovative way for our campus to communicate with our parents and students. This is where the story of AVID meets App begins.

Horace Mann is best noted as expressing that education is the great equalizer of man. AVID’s philosophy is the greatest example of Mann’s thought via a revolutionary college and career readiness system. Mobile devices are the great equalizers of modern day communication.

Marrying the three (? Name the three) was the answer. Funding it…well…wasn’t even an option. This is the part that I call foolish.

According to an April study featured on The Pew Internet and American project reportCell phones help bridge the digital divide by providing internet access to less-privileged teens.” I observed our halls. They didn’t dress the same or sport the same kicks but they all owned a mobile device. I observed the grocery stores. Mobile devices were in the palm, pocket, and purse of almost everyone!

I went to campus Monday and announced to my AVID students that I was going to build a mobile app so that they and their parents could effectively participate in our school community.

They cheered. Great.

Now I had to actually learn to build mobile apps.

Now I was taking the advanced classes via youtube videos and developer forums. Now they began believing in me.

For seven months I learned about apps, and our AVID site team was critical in helping decide what would be included in the contents. We wanted an RSS feed that would feature news and announcements. We wanted our community to have athletic and fine arts schedules so that they would never miss a performance. Direct call buttons and instant e-mail functions were included to communicate with our campus and teachers. A tab was dedicated to students where they could use instructional technology tools and TAKS formula sheets. PTA included their own contact information to communicate with them. The district chimed in and included a resource page that was filled with their Facebook, Twitter, RSS feed, and more.

All of this was mobile.

At  3am our DeLeon app went live on the Android market. I texted my AVID students and they blasted it on their Facebook pages.

They cheered.

I used it as a great lesson to never give up when discouraged, exhausted, and facing failure over and over again.

Month 10 our school app went live on the Apple market. We cried. 

It was working.

In July, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce awarded me a $10,000 Innovation Grant to continue developing applications for other schools and districts.

In August,McAllen High School, an AVID campus dedicated to school-wide implementation, launched their app.

In two months their app reached almost 10,000 views!

I became a business, eJucomm. I believe in what my mobile apps can do and so does McAllen ISD. They will be launching an app for every school in our district with surrounding districts in South Texas doing the same.

My mission statement is simple: Linking schools to students and parents via mobile apps for increased involvement and academic success.

And that is the part I call AVID inspiring me to create a project that is slowly bridging the communication gap that can now be traveled by all- so that our students are really created equal!



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