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Read Your Inner Compass: Another Way to Look at College Readiness

By Jonathan Petrick, AVID Staff Developer, Elective Teacher, and Coordinator, Ramstein Middle School, Germany

A little over a year ago, I enrolled in a land navigation course (orienteering and compass work minus the GPS). As I navigated a compass course through the daylight and darkness, I couldn’t help but wonder how AVID strategies, inquiry, collaboration, determination, and so on, could help me as I sat in the woods—temporarily lost—at nearly midnight. So, my AVID brain started ticking…. How would my students fare at a similar activity? At the conclusion of the summer, I returned to my school in Germany and contacted someone who could help guide my idea of putting my students through a similar course to fruition, and in the process, he helped me think about my work as an AVID teacher in a new way.

Meet Josh, our land navigation master. Josh helped me develop a land navigation course for my students (which we call the NAVid Competition; go to the end of this blog for more on the competition). He is a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) specialist with the 86th OSS at Ramstein Air Base (RAB). If that is a mouthful, let me explain what he does: He teaches SERE strategies to aircrews at RAB for their mandatory refresher training. Prior to the military, Josh spent eight years as a carpenter. During his sixth year in that trade, he realized that he wanted to make a career change, and his new career would follow his passion of being active, hands-on, and working outside of the normal 9–5 workday schedule. As a result, Josh enlisted in the United States Air Force and pursued his passion of becoming a SERE specialist—a job which ultimately afforded him the opportunity to use his inner compass to guide his professional path. 

You may have noticed that in Josh’s history above, I didn’t mention college. Josh did not choose the college path out of high school. And I bet that right now, some of you are thinking, “But AVID is ALL ABOUT COLLEGE! Danger, danger!” Ask any AVID Elective teacher, and they will tell you stories from students who say, “But I don’t need college because my [insert relative’s name here] never went to college, and he makes lots of money.” Or, they’ve sadly heard from colleagues that, “All kids aren’t meant to go to college. Why do all this AVID stuff?”

We know, as educators, that college completion is becoming increasingly important in closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in our nation. It’s a fact. But, it is also a fact that some people are successful without college and some people’s paths will not lead them to college. However, I ask you, does that mean that students won’t benefit from AVID strategies and curriculum that improve their critical thinking, collaboration skills, time management, organization, and college and career knowledge? Just as my AVID students used the skills that they learned from Josh to navigate our NAVid Competition, they will use the skills and self-exploration that they learn in AVID to navigate their life choices.

A huge part of why AVID works is by having students develop skills now, build a résumé of experiences, and join an AVID Family with a plethora of opportunities that will enable them to make informed decisions as high school seniors. I want my AVID students to understand that ALL of their opportunities increase as they are exposed to research-based practices, interpersonal relationships with peers who they would not normally dialogue with, and an increased skillset of non-cognitive skills, leadership, self-discovery, and resilience! Guess what? If they decide to go to college, as most do, awesome! But if not, I know that AVID has helped them understand the options that they have and has prepared them for future opportunities—including college, if they decide to go that route one day.

When you provide the tools for exploration (think AVID curriculum and strategies), you open a door. Students move from, “Can I even do this?” to “This is a possibility.” Josh believes that AVID helps students see the possibilities that exist based on their inner drive and opportunities by “…exposing our youth to a variety of experiences, so they can decide the path they will take.” Based on Josh’s experience with navigating the professional and military world, he believes that AVID teachers do a very good job of presenting different life opportunities to our students.

Here, Josh provides some advice using the navigational mindset with current AVID students:

Josh in action!

  1. Don’t be too hasty: Think, What do I really want to do? Does your life compass point to the true you?
  2. Be real with your career: What are the driving forces toward your career, and is it a career that truly interests you? Remember that you want to wake up every morning and say, “I love what I do.”
  3. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel: Continually revisit your plan to see how you are doing. Where am I with my journey, and am I making progress in realistic time?
  4. Harness the difficult to build confidence: Anything worth doing never comes easy. Embrace the difficulty. Sometimes all it takes to make things work is creativity and outside the box thinking, a change of routine helps! You need to learn by doing and build confidence in the process. Some reflection about your next checkpoint: How successful was I at [blank]? What will I do differently next time?
  5. Get out and start ruckin’ (put the plan into action and take the first step): Build a plan and have a few options as fail-safes in case you travel down the path that truly is not for you. Sometimes, it takes the actual experience of your “dream” to decide that it may not be for you after all.

Find your passion, plot your course, and know that being enrolled in AVID will increase your chances of not being lost and provide you with more paths to travel.

After a year of continual work with Josh, ask him what’s next, and you will not be surprised: “I’d love to go into teaching when I finish my military career. …I think I want to teach!” Josh is currently enrolled in online college courses. I’m definitely not shocked. After all, it’s just like I tell my students, “Resistance in the AVID World is futile.”


Want to read more blogs from Jonathan? Check these out!
Leaders Give Us Permission to Be Great
Zoe's Top Five Rules for New AVID Students and Elective Teachers
If Not You, Then Who?


Josh Krape is a Survival Evade Resist Escape (SERE) Specialist for the United State Air Force at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. A native of St. Peters, Missouri, Josh enjoys playing ice hockey for the Kaiserslautern Military Community Eagles where his 6’5" frame has knowingly earned him the nickname “hitman”.  During his ‘off’ days, he travels Europe with his wife Megan and two daughters and builds things around the house using his carpentry skills. Petrick adds, “he’s got pretty good survival skills, can sell glowgear at an AVID Dance likes he’s the boss, and can get down on the dance floor.




Jonathan Petrick and one of his former AVID students, Aris SoltaniJonathan Petrick is a Staff Developer, Coordinator and AVID Elective Teacher for Grades 7-8 overseas. He was the teacher speaker at the 2014 Summer Institute in Sacramento, CA. You can watch his speech here. In addition to teaching in Germany, he facilitates AVID Best Practices for teachers in the Dept. of Defense Dependent Schools-Germany (DoDDS). Jonathan makes it clear that "collaboration and humor are the tools that ward off insanity and keep the AVID Bus moving forward for Student Success at Ramstein Middle School. He enjoys playing the "6 Word Memoirs Guess Who?" game with his tutors and crafting the perfect roux for his stellar chicken gumbo.


More on the NAVid Competition

Ramstein MS AVID has teamed with Josh for a 2nd consecutive year for the annual NAVid Competition—this year’s event will draw more than 150 students from AVID Middle Schools across Germany to test their land navigation and use collaborative problem solving to earn prizes in this multi-school event. Jonathan enjoys asking higher level questions about all the cool gadgets in Josh’s workplace and using Josh’s wisdom as to avoid being lost in the city or forest. You can contact Josh “The Land Navigation Master” here http://www.kmceagles.com/spotlight/detail/?id=42 or the RMS AVID program by clicking here http://avid.rms.kdso.eportalnow.net.

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Reader Comments (4)

Wow, Mr. Josh looks like he spent some time on dis! Thx

April 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKadin malinich

Thank you Jonathan and Josh for bringing this great learning opportunity to so many AVID students in our military schools as well as sharing your thoughts about what "finding and using your compass" brings to students as far as college and career readiness. It's great when students get a chance to find their way and are challenged along the way. I especially liked "Harness the difficult to build confidence." Building grit in students has a remarkable impact.

Larry Monroe
AVID Site Team Member
Ramstein American Middle School

April 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Monroe

What a terrific idea to incorporate the merits of the military into the classroom. I suppose if we all look around at our own community, we could find similar ways to connect. Thanks for sharing.

April 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMya

Awesome Article its clear that much time was spent on it. It also brings out the true colors of Avid and what its truly meant to do. It's not so much telling you to go to college. But giving the tools and info to make the right choice.

April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Black

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