By Joslyn Gipson, AVID Alumna
“The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn.” –Unknown
I remember sitting in history class a year and a half ago, and reading this quote on the screen. “Okay, so why is he showing this to us?” is the thought that ran through my head. I mean, yes there was definitely a positive message in this quote, but nothing that gripped me. It wasn’t until after reading Rob Gira’s post on Resilience, the Brain, and Emotion, that I truly understood the power of this quote.
In Gira’s blog, he does an exceptional job describing the importance of creating an environment in which students feel a “sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity.” Easier said than done right? Wrong! While many people may believe that it is impossible to create this type of environment, I can assure you that it is not only possible, but it exists in the form of an organization called AVID. After 30 years of implementation, AVID has helped thousands of students overcome the bends in the road and make the necessary turns for success. While it would be wonderful to look back through the 30 years of AVID history and recount all the success stories, it would be almost impossible. However, there is one success story that I would like to share with you: Mine.
Allow me to start at the beginning. Growing up I was always that “strange” child who would sit in the back of the classroom sucking her thumb watching the other children play. My obstacle: A severe speech impediment. This speech impediment caused students to dislike me, teachers to give up on me, my mother to become frustrated, and my older sister to become my very own interpreter, seeing that she was the only person in the world who could understand me. Due to the constant ridicule of my peers, and the lack of support from my teachers, I hated school. After suffering from my speech impediment for eight years, I was offered a solution: speech therapy. Speech therapy became my dream come true, and speech was no longer a bend in the road for me. Now that my peers and teachers saw me as “normal,” I began to blossom socially. By the end of third grade I no longer hated school; in fact I looked forward to being in the classroom with my peers. I wish that I could say this marked an end to my troubles at school, but as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.”
Halfway through my sixth grade year my mother decided to move our family to a new city, this meant starting all over again. I had come to love my old middle school and friends. I had gone so long without having any friends; I felt that I should not be forced to leave any of them behind. But nonetheless the decision had been made. I begin classes at Spring Valley Middle school in January of that year. This new school would bring about a new set of obstacles. To my teachers, I was the burdensome new student who they had to play “catch-up” with. To my peers, I was the “new girl who thought she was funnier and smarter than everyone else.” All things would reach a tipping point when a group of five girls approached me at lunch and threatened to jump me. I had been at this school for only one month, and had no idea what I could have done to make ALL FIVE girls want to fight me. I came to find out exactly what their problem was against me. This group of girls hated that I put a lot of effort into school. In their opinion I made them look bad because I was the “smart black girl” while they were the “troubled black girls.” So how do you think I handled this situation? I did what any normal pre-teen would do in order to become accepted… I gave in. I stopped volunteering to participate, I stopped asking for help, I stopped talking, and most importantly I stopped caring. Just when I thought that I no longer wanted to have any part with school, I was introduced to AVID.
My AVID elective class was like no other class had been in. Unlike any of my classes in sixth grade, this class was full of students who actually valued education. I was surrounded by students who helped me to succeed, rather than delighted in my failure. For the first time I had a teacher who valued me as a student. For the first time I had a teacher who focused on my assets rather than my deficits. In his blog Gira discusses about greenhouse care: “With the right environment… [children] can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.” AVID became my greenhouse care. The program completely transformed me. I went from having a 2.3 GPA at the beginning of my 7th grade year to graduating high school with a 4.2. I went from having no desire to remain in school to earning a bachelor’s degree. I went from hating school to undergoing a teaching credential. Most importantly, I went from hardly ever speaking to having a voice. The biggest lesson that AVID has taught me is “The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn.”
Joslyn Gipson is currently working as in intern at the AVID Center in San Diego, for the Marketing and Communications Department. She attends San Diego State University, where she is completing her teaching credential. Joslyn joined AVID her seventh grade year at Spring Valley Middle School. In high school, she continued on with AVID at Monte Vista High School.