By Jim Nelson, Executive Director, AVID Center
As usual, at this year’s Summer Institutes I was inspired by the student and teacher speakers who shared their AVID experience with thousands (yes, thousands) of educators. Their stories never failed to move me as I heard about what they’d accomplished, and the many substantial obstacles they faced to reach their success. The common theme/thread among most all of the speakers was the relationships created through AVID and the “AVID family” they had grown to count on for support and encouragement along their path. It reminded me of my own story. So I took the liberty this summer, as it’s my last summer as AVID’s executive director, to tell a story about my grandson.
It was my first summer with AVID seven years ago, when my grandson Luke was born very prematurely, almost three months early. Luke stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, otherwise known as the NICU (pronounced nik-u) for nearly four months. He had breathing tubes and feeding tubes and all kinds of monitors and special equipment connected to his very tiny body. You might say he had the tools needed to help him in his struggle to survive. But I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that while he had the necessary tools, it was the care of the professionals that made the difference. There were highly trained doctors and nurses and lab technicians, working around the clock to ensure that he not only had the right tools, but the right care. So that when he pulled out the tubes (which he did seven times), they were reconnected, or when he began to breathe on his own, they cheered and encouraged his progress.
As I’ve listened to our student speakers over the past seven years the parallel between Luke’s struggle for survival and the struggle so many of our students go through was striking. I recognized the common factor for both was the professionals in charge and caring for these young people.
Our student speakers (typically, they’ve just graduated from high school) are remarkable; but I remind our audiences, in no uncertain terms, that they did not start out this way. It was the care and attention of the professional educators who surrounded them that paved the way for their success. Even with the right tools, they still needed the support of the adults to achieve.
The good news for my family is that Luke had both the right tools and care of the outstanding medical professionals at Cook Children's Hospital in Ft. Worth, Texas, to see him through. He is now a healthy and very active (!) seven-year-old.
As I look at the state of education today, and the struggles so many of our students face in achieving all they can become, I am reminded that it is the responsibility of the adults, the professional educators, to provide the tools and the care to ensure that students, every single one, are given the opportunity to not only survive, but to thrive as they make their way through our school systems.
And so as this new school year begins, my challenge to all AVID educators (and any other educator who reads this) is to see the potential in every child, and to understand that it is up to us, the adults, to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be successful. Make no mistake; it is not an easy job. It is hard work. But the rewards are immeasurable, and our bright future depends on their success.
Have a wonderful school year ~ Jim