AVID Program in Asheville Schools

Creating AVID Students on Many Levels

Asheville High School junior Michael Davis and UNC Asheville junior Runda Alamour review an economics assignment during an AVID tutoring session. There’s a rare gem of a partnership between UNC Asheville and Asheville City Schools that’s been quietly changing lives for students for more than 15 years. 

Parents and teachers of middle and high school students, and UNC Asheville students and faculty are working together to help students in grades six through 12 prepare for college and life. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national program embraced by the university that incorporates rigorous academic standards, the Socratic method, inquiry-based tutoring and mentoring.

Asheville’s AVID program statistics are stellar: 100 percent of AVID high school seniors have been accepted into a college program, and more than 90 percent have chosen to attend a four-year college.

“We have an authentic, transformative partnership between UNC Asheville and Asheville City Schools,” explained Kim Kessaris, UNC Asheville’s outreach and AVID tutoring coordinator. “We’ve created a family here. We have siblings, cousins, and even a child of an AVID graduate in the program now. That family includes students, teachers and parents.”

Some 300 students in grades six through 12 participate in AVID; they attend Asheville High School, Asheville Middle School, and SILSA (School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville), housed in Asheville High School. Students in AVID typically have a GPA of 2.0 to 3.5, are usually the first in their family to attend college, and many come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. They go through an intensive interview process and must sign a contract when selected for this free program.

Jerome Hughes is the AVID Coordinator at Asheville High and SILSA. He communicates regularly with other AVID program teachers across the United States.

“We have the Cadillac of partnerships with UNC Asheville. Our ratio of tutors to students is excellent, and the UNC Asheville student tutors are well trained and motivated.”—Jerome Hughes, AVID Coordinator at Asheville High and SILSA

“We have the Cadillac of partnerships with UNC Asheville,” he said. “Our ratio of tutors to students is excellent, and the UNC Asheville student tutors are well trained and motivated.”

Hughes describes the tutor/student relationship as symbiotic. Students benefit from being around college students close to their age, and tutors enjoy interacting with students and using what they learn in their college classes.

Asheville High School junior Michael Davis is an AVID student who believes every school should have a program like this one. He appreciates the coursework, the field trips, the scholarship information and the help with SAT practice. He also appreciates the UNC Asheville tutors.

“They are insightful and give us great tips about college, and we can have solid conversations with them,” he said. “And the broad base of tutors means we get exposure to different ethnic cultures and languages. They add icing to the cake with their knowledge and mentoring.”

There are 70 to 80 UNC Asheville students who serve as tutor facilitators. The tutors use the Socratic method to stimulate collaborative facilitation. They share concepts and help students learn critical-thinking skills. Some tutors are paid; other tutors fulfill education requirements for teacher licensure. But not all tutors want to become teachers.

“AVID tutors must be UNC Asheville full-time students; other than that it’s wide open,” said Kessaris. “It’s for anyone interested in helping students succeed. Some of our tutors want to become pediatricians, physical therapists, or even want to join the Peace Corps.”

Runda Alamour is a junior at UNC Asheville and a tutor leader. She not only tutors students but also serves as a liaison between other tutors, high school teachers and Kessaris.

“I graduated from Asheville High School and took some of the same classes that AVID kids take, so I’m comfortable talking with teachers and giving feedback,” she explained. “And I understand the pressures of high school, and know how important it is to have someone your own age reassuring you it will get better.”

Senior tutor leader Kyja Wilburn spends 12 hours a week working with students in Asheville Middle School. She has learned much about her personal style, and enjoys applying what she’s learning in school.

“It’s a completely practical way to communicate complex college ideas and make them clear, and the way we work with questions is important,” she said. “It’s been the most realistic, intensive experience I’ve had with kids, and the best experience of my time at UNC Asheville.”