By Raymond Koopmans, AVID Alumnus
At the age of nineteen, my mother immigrated to America with the intention to settle in Washington, DC not Washington State; she did not know there were two different "Washingtons." By the time she was 21, she was raising me as a single parent and working 14-hour shifts while learning English through night school classes. Tenacity and focus were the foundations of my mother's journey through single parenthood and survival in America. Having grown up working in the immigrant farming fields, I knew early on this was not the life I wanted. Hence, my own journey has taken many turns, which have influenced and contributed to my strength, determination, passion, and educational/career choices.
I was the first in my entire family to earn a high school diploma. This was not an easy task for someone like me. I had to overcome countless barriers in order to be successful. Barriers included both language and financial issues. Unlike the majority of my high school cohort, no one in my household was able to help me write and edit my English papers. I distinctly remember both my mom and I being frustrated when I took Algebra and letters were introduced into math problems. Due to these challenges and my experiences working in the fields, I learned the value of humility and asking for help very early on. I needed to be at a level of responsibility and maturity well beyond my years.
I remember working at the Summer Literacy Academy where I met Sue Bergman, the woman who introduced me to AVID and made a huge impact on my education. After speaking to her, she felt I would be a great addition to the AVID program at Mount Vernon High School. I didn’t fully understand what AVID was about, but I knew it helped kids get ready for college, so I agreed to enroll, and I am so grateful I did.
AVID gave me the opportunity to start preparing to attend college, learn time management skills, and begin understanding what I needed to do in high school to get to the next level. I remember learning about note-taking and the importance of maintaining an organized binder and an organized life. I also appreciated the college campus tours we went on as well as the guest speakers that spoke to us about their careers. It was through these experiences that I learned what I needed to do to reach my life goals. I specifically remember "scholarship Mondays" in our AVID program. This was a time dedicated to applying for scholarships. Luckily our high school career center was very well organized. I was able to apply for well over 60 scholarships. Of course I did not win them all, but with the help of my AVID instructor in editing my personal statements, I earned enough to help me graduate from the University of Washington debt free.
The skills I learned in AVID stayed with me throughout my undergraduate program at the University of Washington. By learning how to manage my time, be efficient, take good notes and stay organized I was able to graduate from the University of Washington with a degree in Mathematics and Biochemistry, with a 3.61 Cumulative GPA. I was able to travel to Australia, India, and Honduras to gain more world experience. I was able to maintain a steady job throughout college in an Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine Lab because I was able to learn the building blocks of managing my time and my life efficiently in AVID. Without the skills I learned in AVID, I would not have been able to achieve all of these things.
I knew that I wanted a better life for myself, and although my mom was not able to help me directly with my homework, she was always able to offer the support I needed to maintain my motivation and determination. I also found this support through my AVID teachers. Now, more than a few years later, I look forward to entering medical school at the University of Washington. I am excited to continue my education and expand my knowledge in this profession by consistently using and honing the skills I learned in my AVID class during high school.
Raymond Koopmans is a current Ameri Corps member fulfilling his year of service in the Health Corps program at Sea Mar Community Health Center in South Seattle. He graduated from Mount Vernon High school in 2007 and attended the University of Washington where he received a degree in Mathematics and Biochemistry in 2012. This fall, Raymond will begin his medical education at the University of Washington School of Medicine to become a doctor serving the needs and taking care of low-income and underserved populations.