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Loss of an AVID Friend

By Rob Gira, Executive Vice President, AVID Center

Last Saturday night, we lost a great educator and friend when Michael Solis passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Michael was a veteran staff developer for us, but more importantly, he was a wonderful husband, father, and mentor to many family members, colleagues, and students.

His wife, Dori, posted on Michael’s Facebook site a moving tribute Saturday night, and her words were echoed by hundreds of others—family, friends, former students, colleagues.

My beautiful husband, friend, and partner went to be with our Lord at 10:14pm... the blessings and miracles that God brought through him will be remembered and cherished by us all.  Thank you my sweet love!”

It is clear that Michael touched many lives.  His family, including children Kayleigh, Skylar, Cash, Remy, and Luna were blessed to be with Michael at the end of his life.  Brenda Hall, a longtime friend of Michael, was one of the many family and friends visiting him at his home during the last days.  The house was filled with many visitors paying their respects.  Brenda had this to say in remembrance of Michael:

“I was fortunate to work with Michael at Vista High in San Diego County, then later as a county office AVID Coordinator, and for many years a fellow trainer at the AVID Summer Institutes.  Michael truly embodied the spirit of AVID in all that he did.  He was so passionate and driven to help students in every role he undertook.  One of his gifts was always helping to bring the adults together with him on this effort.  He made his goals and intentions clear and then he made working towards those goals fun.  Even when the adults were less than enthusiastic to start with, Michael was able to get them to see the need and the value in the work and have fun along the way.  He understood the importance of relationships and always conveyed a positive message and a positive spirit which made it impossible for people to say no to him.

“Michael's generous spirit was evident yesterday as it was throughout his illness.  He chose to make his last few weeks a celebration and allowed family and friends and former students to see him off.  He changed the lives of many young people that he taught over the years, but he also changed the lives of his colleagues.” 

Michael began his career as a teacher and worked in several school districts in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County.  As an AVID teacher and administrator, he was renowned for always listening to both sides of any issue and for believing in the potential of his students.  Most recently, he was an assistant principal at Anaheim High School.  One of his former students posted, “Thank you for being the best teacher I've ever known.  Thank you for everything you did for many others and me.  You inspired many to always do better and believed in us when no one did. You were one of a kind and you will be greatly missed. I will never ever forget you.  I WILL MISS YOU THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING AND ALWAYS BELIEVING IN ME!”

Miceal Kelly, Michael’s good friend, is the director for AVID in California’s Region 10.  He recalls Michael with great fondness and respect:

“Michael Solis is a powerful force in all our lives.  Some of the adjectives we might consider to describe him are: considerate, generous, thoughtful, insightful, witty, charming and funny.  He is a loving father and husband, a great brother and son, wonderful colleague and a true friend.  Any of us who spent some time with Michael knew that he was all these qualities and more.  Indeed there is something special about Michael.  The light burned very bright within him.  We often talked about our work, about AVID, about students, about what it means to be a teacher, a father, and a husband.  Michael was not afraid to give his opinion, always tempered with kindness, patience and sincerity.  He spoke his truth well.”

Michael and I worked together at our AVID Summer Institutes for about 10 years.  I always looked forward to seeing him at our April training and then at various Institutes across the U.S.  Michael was an AVID expert, and we called on him to present many different Institute strands.  He always delivered the content impeccably.  Moreover, Michael had the rare ability to put everyone at ease, with both a genuine smile and intriguing questions.  When I had conversations with him, he seemed to look very deeply into me and whatever we were discussing, and I always knew that he was listening completely to whatever I had to say.  In short, I had absolute trust in him.  As one of his students posted on Facebook, “He made you feel unique and cherished.”

Mark Bennett, another friend and AVID’s senior customer service specialist, reflected on Michael’s legacy and shared this with me:

“Michael’s effect on others was beyond remarkable and exemplified what he often referred to as the ‘AVID Way,’ profound empathy and force of will that says to the AVID student, we’re not here to save you, we’re here to show you how to save yourself.  That was Michael, ‘let me help you help yourself.’

“He inspired, encouraged and empowered all who crossed his path: his students, his colleagues and his friends.  He made the world a better place.”

The summer of 2011 was Michael’s last summer with us as a staff developer, and he had been fighting stage four lung cancer for several years.  But you would never have known, and it never even crossed my mind that he was ill:  he was so positive, so energetic, full of high energy, highly professional, engaging, and engaged.

That was also the summer when he provided a keynote speech at our San Diego Institute.  It is worth a listen.  His wife, Dori, played his keynote speech from the 2011 AVID Summer Institute many times over during the last few days.  His speech tells us so much about him, but part of the reason it was playing in the background was to help AVIDize some who didn't yet know about the program.  Of course, when Dori explained a little about AVID and the video to the hospice nurse who was there when Brenda and Michelle Mullen (one of our AVID Center executive vice presidents) visited, the nurse told Dori she had been an AVID student.  And so it goes...

Michael, we will miss you greatly.  To Dori and the children, thanks for letting us spend time with him.

From the Solis family:

The family is greatly enjoying all of your loving words and beautiful memories of Michael.  If you would like to further express your love and gratitude, in lieu of flowers, we have set up a PayPal account for the future "Fuerte Michael Solis Scholarship Fund."  The PayPal email address is [email protected]  Please address any questions or comments to Salem McCall (aka Tonya Snively) (Links if you are logged into Facebook).  Our gratitude is immeasurable.


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Reader Comments (4)

Your beautiful words and expressions of love and adoration for my husband give me and our family such comfort. He truly loved and believed in AVID and was grateful for the professional development, travel, and lasting friendships that it afforded him. Thank you AVID for the important work that you do.

January 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Michael Solis

Rob, you did a wonderful job capturing the essence of an amazing man. While I did not know Michael well, I could sense in him a depth and insight into the importance of what we strive to do as educators. He was one of those people about whom I never heard anything but praise and admiration from his peers. He represented and taught well what is best in dealing with the young people we are privileged to serve. My life is enriched as a result of knowing him.

January 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRosemary Ellis


Thanks so much. Michael had what we call an AVID soul. So do you.

January 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRob Gira

Rob: Everyone spoke of Michael with much more knowledge of him than I could, but I met and spoke with him several times and I have the same impression: his energy lifted yours. He had all it took. It was WHO he was, not what he did that will continue to inspire us. We wont remember how well he taught Cornell notes or directed a Socratic Seminar - however wonderfully he did so. We all do remember the who of Michael - he brought energy. When I left his presence, I was better for myself and others. He has taught me what to grow towards.

January 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill Madigan

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