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Making Connections Through Shadow Days

By Katrina Mabry-Smith, AVID Elective Teacher and Coordinator, and Lisa Davis, AVID Site Team Counselor, Timberview High School

Sometimes when we visited middle schools, the students would say, “AVID is just a middle school thing; I don’t think I’ll really need it in high school.” The middle school students tend to have a lot of questions, and it is obvious that they are unfamiliar with the challenges that they will encounter in high school. So, when we looked at our retention rates and even our 9th grade failure rates, we realized that we needed to make connections with our middle school students early!

Why Shadow Day?

Our Shadow Day is all about making connections. We want to connect the incoming student to the program, to the school, and to other students! We want them to feel confident about high school and prepared to be successful. We also want them to feel like they are already part of something special because they are part of AVID. In Mansfield ISD, all high school campuses are encouraged to host a fall Shadow Day for the middle school students in order to provide a realistic view of high school, AVID, and the expectations. In addition, it fosters a connection with the AVID high school teachers and students, which encourages students to stick with the system. It not only calms their fears, but serves to excite them about their near future.

Do your middle school students wonder what AVID will be like at the next level? Do they have the opportunity to see exactly how students benefit from AVID in high school, especially as seniors? Shadow Day may be just the thing that they need. At Timberview High School, AVID students attending James Coble Middle School, our feeder school, have a chance to be a high school AVID student for a day, as they “shadow” a Timberview High AVID student. From lunch to P.E., from band to tutorials, students get a glimpse of what they can expect and what is expected of them before entering high school.

Shadow Day Activities

Upon arrival, the middle school AVID participants are greeted with a warm welcome from their high school counterparts, who are holding signs with their buddies’ names, so they are easily matched, and then have a quick opportunity to take a few photos. Students are matched with a high school student before Shadow Day and are partnered according to interests. For instance, a band student might be partnered with a high school band student, so they can attend music class and experience practice sessions at the high school level. After a few group photos and cheers, students are on their way and dive right into the high school experience. Middle school students attend all classes with their buddies and are expected to take Cornell notes and participate in the class as a regular student would. Students have the opportunity to work in the science labs, work on projects, attend lunch, and participate in tutorials.

At the end of the day, a panel of AVID seniors share their experiences in AVID, explain how AVID has helped them prepare for college, and answer questions. If the excitement and freedom that the middle school students experience during Shadow Day isn’t enough to make them stick with AVID, this surely is. The testimonies of seniors are the best form of recruitment that you can find. Finally, a video is shown to attendees highlighting college dreams that have become a reality. It features former Timberview AVID students who are now attending colleges from across the nation. (You can watch this year’s video here! Feel free to share it.) Upon returning to school, the middle school AVID students at Coble write reflections about their experiences, which are copied and sent back to us in order to help determine how we can make the Shadow Day experience even better for the next school year.

If hosting a Shadow Day sounds good to you, please consider the following:

  1. Connect with the AVID coordinator at your feeder middle school(s) and set a date in the fall when there are activities happening at your school for middle school students to see.
  2. Host students on a tutorial day.
  3. Partner middle and high school students with similar interests, so they might see how students prepare and plan for these activities.
  4. Greet middle school students with banners and signs to help them identify their buddies for the day.
  5. Provide information about special sessions and AVID groups that they could be a part of, such as all-male sections or AVID Club.
  6. After the completion of Shadow Day, share the middle school students’ reflections with their partners, so they can see the impact that they’ve made.

Building and maintaining productive and supportive relationships is one of the numerous benefits of AVID, and Shadow Day is just another way of solidifying the connection between AVID students as they move from one school and one level to the next.



 Katrina Mabry-Smith currently serves as an AVID Elective teacher and site coordinator at Timberview High. She completed her B.A. in Mass Communications and English at Southern University and her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Louisiana Tech University. Before teaching AVID, Katrina taught middle and high school English for more than 10 years. She feels blessed to see her students move on to college and their chosen careers well prepared and destined for success with AVID's help.


Lisa Davis is currently the AVID site team counselor at Timberview High. Lisa has been in education for 15 years and has supported AVID 100% since she was introduced to it nine years ago. Lisa is hopeful that more colleges will start introducing the AVID concept to future teachers, while they are still working toward their degree. Lisa believes that the core values of AVID compliment her faith, and she tries to instill these values in every student, including her own 13-year-old daughter. Lisa obtained her B.S. in Biological Health Science from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and her M.Ed. in School Counseling from Dallas Baptist University.


 The featured video was produced by Mr. Ryan Mitchell, AVID site team member and Science teacher at Timberview High. In addition to teaching Science, Mr. Mitchell takes his AP® Physics classes on college visits, helping to inform students about college life and reinforce the college-bound culture at Timberview. Over the years, Mr. Mitchell has made presentations and created student panels consisting of his former students currently enrolled in college for Shadow Day participants. Ryan worked with present and former Timberview students to produce the video for this year’s Shadow Day. He enjoys using technology to connect students and learning. Ryan holds degrees from Purdue and Notre Dame.

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