Blake Harwell, AVID Tutor and Senior at San Diego State University
Last week, President Obama took to the podium in a joint session of Congress to update the American people on where the United States stands. His very first words exclaimed, “Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it and did her job to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in three decades.” The president touched on a very important cornerstone within the field of education. For students to be successful, they need to learn in an environment where they can be effectively supported and challenged. Over the past 12 years, I have had the privilege to see how AVID creates that foundation of support as an AVID student, as an AVID tutor, and now, as part of the newly formed AVID Alumni Association.
In my years with AVID, I have been constantly humbled by the individual stories of my peers and students, as well as the adversity that they face on a regular basis. Tariq comes from a broken family, Pierre lost his father to cancer, Brian deals with severe heart problems, and Danielle has dealt with extreme poverty and homelessness. These are just a few examples. For many people, these circumstances would make the prospect of a college education pretty dim, but these students come to school on a daily basis with the dream to go to college. They rely on their classmates, tutors, and AVID teachers as their second family. I have seen countless students go from underachieving, misguided students, to successful leaders on campus and in the community. AVID creates the environment that blossoms students into their greatest potential, but that work is not finished when students become college freshmen.
“We have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce by guaranteeing all children access to a world class education,” the president argued in the State of the Union address. However, college access is only half of the equation. Our graduates need access, but they also need support systems built into postsecondary education that will mold American college students into future professionals.
The transition from high school to college is a very challenging one, and too many college students are dropping out because they are not receiving the support that they need to get through it. What many of these students don’t know is that there are support systems in postsecondary education that are already in place. As a leader in the AVID Alumni Association at San Diego State University, I hope to make a contribution that will change this situation.
The AVID Alumni Association has begun its preliminary work at six universities, with plans to expand to more in the future. The main objective of this effort is to create a network of AVID graduates currently in college and develop support systems for college students on those campuses. The AVID Alumni Association has set ambitious goals and will serve as an environment in which college students will be connected and educated about resources already built into their respective universities to support them. The AVID Alumni Association will also connect fellow students to one another through service events and academics to build lasting friendships and alliances. Lastly, the AVID Alumni Association will network with the professional world to give their members internship opportunities and a higher potential for jobs in their field of study outside of college.
The issues of this century will take a lot of hard work and effort from highly educated individuals to solve. If the United States wants to lead the world into the future, education must be at the top of our list. To do this, the United States must maximize access to a college education, as well as invest in systems that will give college students the support that they desperately need. Investing in AVID will help to build on the amazing work that this organization has done since 1980 and will bolster the work that is just beginning at the college level.
The president can expect our support.
Blake Harwell is the AVID Alumni Association Student Liaison at San Diego State University. He will be receiving his bachelors degree in social science with an emphasis in single subject teaching from San Diego State. Blake has been involved in AVID as a student, as well as an AVID tutor for Poway Unified School District.