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My AVID Family

By Kersten Heidel, AVID Alumna

Kersten was a student speaker at this year’s Summer Institute in Dallas. Below is her speech as prepared. You can also watch Kersten give her speech!

There comes a time when everyone reaches their breaking point. If you’re lucky, when you reach that point, you’ll have friends that are like family to help you through it. My AVID family helped me through the roughest time of my life and continues to help me reach my dreams.

When I was nine years old, I began to crack. My father didn’t come home one Friday night, and this was pretty common, except for when I had my bowling tournaments the next day. So of course when I woke up that Saturday to my mother balling her eyes out and my father nowhere to be found, I thought the worst. My teammate’s mom knocked on our door and asked why I wasn’t ready, and my mom simply replied, “She’s not going.” I was utterly confused and when I asked why, my mom told me that my father had been out all night and would have to come get me if he wanted me to go to my tournament. I quietly went to my room, shut the door, and broke down in tears. Bowling was how my father and I bonded, this was our thing. I just couldn’t comprehend how he’d let me down. I thought he enjoyed our time together.

After a good cry, I gathered myself and went about my day while my mom took her spoon, cup of water, and needle in her room and shot away the pain she was feeling. I was watching the Saturday cartoons like I always did when I heard my father’s truck. My mom must have heard it too because she closed her bedroom door. When he walked in, he didn’t even acknowledge my existence, he just went into my mom’s room.

At first, everything was quiet on the other side of the door, but then my parent’s voices began to rise. I turned the volume up on the TV to mask their hateful words. The bang of the dresser and my mom’s blood curdling scream had me squeezing my pillow for dear life. My mom ran out of the room, sprinting for the front door, but my father grabbed her tank top, throwing her on the ground and began kicking her in the head. Once I realized what was happening, I ran to my next door neighbor’s house and prompted her to call the cops. I then heard my father’s truck leaving. Not even a minute later, my bruised and bloodied mother was at the door screaming my name in panic. After the cops had come and gone, it only took two months before he turned himself in. I began to let my grades slip. At this point, I simply did not care anymore.

High school rolled around and all of my friends were signing up for this class called AVID. I didn’t really know what it was; I just wanted a class with my friends so I grabbed an application and put it on my schedule. When the end of my 8th grade year rolled around, I realized I hadn’t turned in my application, so I just came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t have that class. At freshman orientation I received my schedule, and someone was looking out for me because AVID was on my schedule.

On the first day of school, I walked into Ms. Smith’s class expecting to see all of my friends, but instead I saw a room full of strangers. I had no idea that these people would soon be the people I turned to for everything. As my freshman year went on, I learned the art of AVID. The dreaded Cornell notes, tutorials, and binder checks quickly became my weapons of choice when it came to school.

My world decided to crash down on me yet another time, smack dab in the middle of my sophomore year, when I made the choice to move in with my sister in Texas. I was extremely nervous when we walked into the counselor’s office to see what classes I would be put in. Yet again, someone had me in mind because Timber Creek High School offered AVID. This made me a little less nervous, especially when AVID was the first class on my schedule. I walked into this unfamiliar classroom and was greeted by one of the most caring, understanding, inspirational, goofy women I had ever met; Mrs. Bryant. She began to ask me about the way AVID worked in Colorado and explained how her AVID class worked and before I knew it, I felt at home. A few months went by and my new AVID family helped make sure I knew I was loved when my mother told my sister she wanted nothing to do with me. Words of encouragement and truth are the only things I hear from the absolutely amazing people I’ve met in AVID. I know through AVID and the experiences we have had together, I’ve made lifelong friendships.

I plan to take all the strength and skills AVID and my AVID family have instilled in me to make it through college and become a pediatrician. The grades I’ve made and will continue to make wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t been given the right tools. I vow to take Cornell notes, questions and summaries included, form tutorial groups, and always ask questions to get through college.

Once I get my degree and become a pediatrician, I will make sure to pass on the kindness and compassion I’ve been shown to my patients. No child deserves to be left behind and I will give those children a chance to have someone there for them, all of the time.

I’ve reached my breaking point and I am so blessed to have my AVID family there every step of the way to help rebuild myself. One day, I’ll be working my dream job and I will always look back at my high school days and know I made it because of the encouragement and kindness I was given. So I want to tell each and every person that has been part of my journey, thank you.

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Reader Comments (2)

Kersten was an amazing speaker (not only because we share the same name, if spelled differently). Her story was heartfelt, and her tears inspired so many of us.

Thank you, Kersten, for sharing your story.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten Foti


You are an amazing young lady. Your story was what AVID is all about. Through your individual determination along with your AVID family, you were able to overcome adversity and achieve greatness. You will make a wonderful pediatrician some day soon. Keep up the hard work and stay strong. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story at SI Dallas.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLuonna Adkins

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