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ASU and AVID help AZ high schoolers plan their college futures

Two Arizona high school students work together at a table at the AVID 2020 conference

Students work on an interactive project at the AVID conference.

February 10, 2020

In February, 163 high school students attending the annual AVID Conference at Arizona State University learned about steps they can take to create an exciting future through higher education. 

This year’s AVID Conference, held at ASU’s West campus, engaged Arizona high school sophomores in activities that help develop their skills in setting goals, becoming aware and taking advantage of their strengths, and designing a clear vision for their future. 

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a nationwide nonprofit that partners with schools to provide learning resources and training to close the achievement gap and reimagine the potential of each student so they can work toward a more fulfilling education, career and life.

Students can begin participating in AVID as early as elementary school and continue through postsecondary education. In high school, students enroll in an elective course where tutors and tutorial videos provide assistance with problems in their current classes and systems that help develop self-awareness and a greater understanding of their future pursuits in education and eventually the workforce. 

“We’ve always focused on students and their personal development,” said Allison Gray, the educational outreach specialist at Access ASU. Access ASU is dedicated to increasing access to higher education and preparing Arizona students for success through family engagement, strategic K–12 education and community partnerships. 

“This year, we were more into hands-on [activities]. So instead of a presentation on how to better yourself, we encouraged taking inventory and quizzing yourself. Let’s dive into your results and see how you can improve.”

The event also included a SPARKS (Students Providing Awareness Resources and Knowledge to Start College) panel where high schoolers ask current Arizona State University students about the college experience in order to better understand their own journey. 

Gray said hearing from current college students helps sophomores connect with real stories that they can use to help guide their own journeys.

Gray said hearing from someone who has gone through struggles like homelessness or being a first-generation student can help high schoolers who have had similar experiences understand they can still achieve their dreams. 

It can also be a fresh change from speaking with college admission advisors, according to Gray. 

“It’s more fun to hear students talk than an adult who went to college 20 years ago and doesn’t have that recent experience,” Gray said.

Molly Palma, a sophomore attending Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, attended the conference with her AVID group from school. She said that while her college and career goals are constantly changing, joining AVID in the eighth grade helped her go from earning B’s in most of her classes to earning A’s. 

“I had to accept that I’m not doing the best I could. I had an open mind toward AVID and the tutorials — I’d go full out on them — and it really helped a lot,” Palma said. 

Palma, who wants to attend either Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University, credited the tutors and tutorials with helping her become a better math, science and English student. She said that the elective course gave her extra time to finish her homework, which used to be a challenge. 

Palma said being the president of choir and AVID and captain of the volleyball team required her to communicate frequently and that the AVID program helped her to further develop her social and speaking skills. 

April Nayely Arciva Alegria, a sophomore attending Camelback High School in Phoenix, said she plans to attend school at either ASU or NAU and continue in ROTC so she can eventually join the military. She said she joined AVID because her counselor said it would help her get into college. 

When AVID students start attending college, ASU maintains communication with students regardless of where they’re enrolled, according to ASU Outreach Assistant Director Sam Smith. Smith said if AVID students attend ASU, they are encouraged to become SPARKS ambassadors if they want continued support or to tell their own story about college life. 

Gray said the overall goal is to promote growth and hard work for all Arizona students. 

“We want them to know that while ASU is an option, any university, college or trade school is a great option,” Gray said. “What we do really well is showing the students how to better themselves while displaying ASU at the same time.”

Written by Julian Klein, Sun Devil Storyteller