By Tania Litwiler, AVID Elective Teacher & Coordinator, Lompoc Valley Middle School
I could hear the snickering from the big boys at the top of the bleachers. It was the middle of our first annual Commit to Student Success Week, and I was watching our 3-on-3 basketball game. UCLA (our principal’s alma mater) vs. University of Alabama (our assistant principal’s school) was on the court, and the teams were playing to 21. The snickers were because of Dulan, who was overthrowing shots and missing every basket attempted.
Dulan, a Sri Lankan boy with an infectious smile, had been the first student to turn in the Scholar Athlete application required for participation in the game. Since I knew that many of the other participating students would be taller than Dulan, my first thought when he handed me the application was, “You will get munched on that court!” But of course, we selected Dulan to play; he was so excited, and his excitement never waned as he flew around the court with the other 3-on-3 participants.
This same level of excitement was rippling throughout our campus as the week unfolded. Every day, we started with a quickwrite focusing on student success, and every day at lunch, we had different lunchtime activities. Most days, we put out the giant Jenga® game that we made from 2x4s and added college names to the sides of each piece. We also converted a regular toss game to a “Mascot Toss” by placing pictures of various college mascots by each hole. On Monday and Friday, we brought out our tri-fold board college projects produced by last year’s AVID students.
Here are some other activities that we held during Commit to Student Success Week:
- Pay It Forward (PIF): Based on the movie of the same name and the foundation that formed after, this all-day activity was designed to produce a wave of kindness throughout our campus. Our AVID Elective students were given three PIF cards and told to do something kind for another student. That student was then given a card with instructions to go to a PIF station and pick up their three cards, so they could then pay it forward.
- College and Career Questionnaire: Students were given a handout with a list of 10–20 college- and career-related questions. They were given the task of getting a signature from a staff member, friend, or family member that matched each question. In order to increase the dialogue between our students and others, no one could sign more than once. All completed handouts were turned in to be entered into a drawing on Friday afternoon.
- Parent/Student Lunch: The end of our Student Success Week coincided with our monthly parent/student lunch. Along with our usual popular games, we added a bookmark activity to this lunchtime. As families enjoyed their lunches together, they were given colored pencils and bookmarks. One side of the bookmark had space for students to write how they would pursue success, and the other was for parents to verbalize their support.
- 3-on-3 Basketball Game: As previously mentioned, students were required to complete a Scholar Athlete form designed to feel a bit like they were being recruited.
The basketball game was moving along well, and the gym was filling up. Students in the audience would cheer with the highs and lows of the game. Dulan’s teammates were generous and often threw the basketball to him, but despite his best efforts, he was not very productive, and the audience was noticing.
With the lunchtime waning, Dulan took a final shot, and this time, the ball flew into the basket. He made the winning points for UCLA, and the crowd went wild! As Dulan’s teammates gave him high-fives, the students began their excited departure from the gym. I followed behind, sharing smiles and laughter with my colleagues. As we left the gym and walked onto the patio, I noticed Dulan with a rather large group of boys around him. Many of them had their binders open to a clean sheet of paper and were asking Dulan for his autograph. In that moment—as Dulan giggled in delight—I thought, “You just never know.”
If our students have the courage to try something new, isn’t it our task to provide these experiences for them? Commit to Student Success Week offered so many opportunities for us to ask them how they felt about their future and their own personal success. It was a chance to have fun activities, while dialoguing about real-life college and career experiences.
Tania Litwiler teaches 7th grade science and AVID at Lompoc Valley Middle School in Lompoc, California. Tania has taught many subjects throughout her 22 years of teaching, but AVID is her passion, and she has seen so many students impacted by the program. Tania received her bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and her educational leadership graduate degree from National University. Tania feels blessed to be living in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley and enjoys cooking, rooting for the SF Giants, listening to Christian rock music, watching science fiction and fantasy, and especially spending time with family and friends.
For more on Commit to Student Success Week at LVMS, read LVMS students focus on success from LompocRecord.com.