Story written by Emily Adams.
COLUMBIA — With fall approaching — and with it, the dreaded college application season — Brittany Brown is surprisingly stress-free.
Brown, a senior at Battle High School in Columbia, credits her peaceful attitude to the Advancement Via Individual Determination program at her school.
Introduced in Columbia two years ago, the AVID program is meant to help motivated students prepare for college. Participants learn studying techniques, critical thinking, time management and self-assessment skills. Students enroll in advanced placement classes and receive help applying for colleges and scholarships.
Nationally, AVID programs serve a large percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds – 74 percent of participants qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches – but the program is open to anyone.
“A lot of people think AVID is designed strictly for low-income,” said Rachel Bennett, Battle High assistant principal and director of the AVID program there.
She said enrollment in AVID mirrors the larger student population at Battle, where about half the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“To have a successful AVID program, it has to match the demographics of the school,” Bennett said. “You have to have kids who will be team players and really want it. They have to be a good fit for the program to be successful.”
In the most recent selection process, 207 students completed applications to join the program, she said. Of those, 162 were selected after written and oral interviews.
Brown, who survived the screening process for a second year, recommends that students apply again even if initially denied.
“AVID helps in a million ways” she said. “It prepared me for college, especially the part where you take AP classes … I used to fall asleep in those classes all the time.”
Brown said that, before joining AVID she focused more on her social life than studying.
“I had a 2.6 GPA freshmen year and it skyrocketed to a 3.2 after AVID,” she said. Brown’s grade point average now is high enough to be accepted by her No. 1 school, University of Tampa.
AVID also has helped Brown prepare for the cost of college, which she is paying for by working at Aeropostale. Brown said her mother is a single parent, and while the family’s income is high enough that she doesn’t qualify for free lunch, Brown expects to pay for college on her own. She hopes to find scholarships through AVID to help.
“I think everyone in my family has had a full-time job while in high school,” Brown said. “I’m working for it.”
Bennett said the program can help self-determined students of any socioeconomic status pay for an education.
“Most parents can’t afford to write a check for an $80,000 bachelor’s degree somewhere,” she said. “AVID works for these kids, to get them into college and find scholarships.”
Brown, who wants to study nursing and work with humanitarian agencies in Africa, said AVID helped her realize her own potential.
“I really do like challenges,” she said. “I think I would have found a way to persevere, one way or another.”