AVID effort to nurture kids' dreams at risk as aid ends

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 8:52 am

The Maulino family is a great believer in AVID – a program that they say propelled Alexander Maulino, 20, from high school to college with dreams of becoming a physician.

At Roseville High School, Alexander's brothers, Jordan, 16, and Matthew, 15, both followed in his footsteps in joining AVID – Advancement Via Individual Determination.

Their mother, Mimsy, is worried that her two younger sons won't be able to complete the program because it was eliminated in June in a line-item veto by Gov. Jerry Brown, and local districts have to find a way to foot the bill for it.

"School districts are in the best position to determine whether this program should be funded at the local level," the governor wrote in his veto message.

The cut has administrators scrambling to retain arguably one of the state's most successful programs.

Consider Elk Grove Unified School District's Valley High School in south Sacramento: Officials said all 82 seniors in its AVID program this year were accepted into four-year colleges; 96 percent of the AVID participants got into four-year colleges in 2011.

At Jackman Middle School, 278 students are enrolled in AVID – or 28 percent of the students at Jackman. Its students go to Valley High after completing eighth grade. Principal Paul Burke called AVID "a phenomenal program."

"I'm going to do everything humanely possible to keep the program," he said.

David Gordon, superintendent of the Sacramento County Office of Education, calls AVID the most successful program he's seen in his 45-year career.

Most of the 15,000 AVID students graduating from high school last year met the requirements for getting into the University of California and California State University systems, he said.

The program helps middle-tier students by teaching them study skills and helping them with college applications. Although anyone can join AVID, the program targets disadvantaged groups, including minorities, first-generation students and at-risk children.

Gordon said he fears that cash-strapped school districts won't be able to pick up the program.

"The state really got its money for it, because when you look at the results, that's pretty remarkable for just $8 million dollars," Gordon said.

Under the current system, county offices of education administer the AVID program, providing support and training directly to teachers. These staff members were paid by the state.

Each school now will have to pay an annual $3,000 membership fee to be a part of the national AVID organization based in San Diego. Support will be available through San Diego, in place of the county offices.

Jennifer Slay, a math teacher and coordinator for the AVID program at Wilson Riles Middle School in Roseville, said it will be harder to get the support AVID instructors need. All 750 students at Wilson Riles receive coaching in AVID strategies, even those not directly enrolled in the program.

"It's really sad that we are again taking away from our kids, especially from those who need the program most," Slay said.

The cut has thrown California AVID programs into disarray. Gordon acknowledges that nothing is set in stone yet. He wants to retain the local support staff but concedes, "We don't have any money."

Mimsy Maulino, who worries whether the program will continue to be available for her children, said she has seen firsthand what AVID can do. The academic success of Alexander has rubbed off on the two younger siblings.

"Alexander urged his brothers to join AVID," Mimsy Maulino said. "AVID drives their success."

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Read more articles by Richard Chang

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