STHS seniors speak out about AVID system |

STHS seniors speak out about AVID system

Axie Navas

South Tahoe High School senior Amber Chivington would often ditch school her freshman year. Her counselor told her she was a good student, but she needed to get on the right track. So she joined AVID, a college-readiness system for elementary, middle and high school students, and that support has made all the difference.

“AVID made is easier knowing where I wanted to go. And we all have the same goals,” Chivington said.

Chivington and the rest of her AVID family gathered in a STHS classroom on Monday to go over college applications with Frank Kovac, an AVID co-chairman and STHS teacher. Kovac, who has been with this particular group for the past three years, said the program fosters an atmosphere of support that unites the teens and their teachers.

“The students and the teacher feel a sense of belonging. We all have similar goals. We’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst,” Kovac said.

Those goals center around an academic future beyond high school. AVID – an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination – stresses college preparation and raises the expectations of students who might not have considered enrolling in a four-year or even a two-year college.

According to AVID data, about 89 percent of AVID students, regardless of ethnicity, complete the course requirements for admission to a four-year state college. That’s compared to the California average of 36 percent.

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To achieve that success, teachers like Kovac help students apply for colleges and learn about the various scholarships available to them. Kovac will also sit down one-on-one with a student to review his or her individual goals, just like a college counselor.

AVID operates under the four principals of WIC-R – writing, inquiry, collaboration and reading. During an AVID tutorial, a student will stand in front of his or her peers and reason through a confusing problem. Using the Socratic method, the other students will ask questions that prompt the presenter to the right answer. It’s inquiry-based learning that enables the teens to come to the solutions on their own, Kovac said.

STHS senior Tammy Tu decided to become an AVID student tutor because it filled a hole in her schedule and also because of that unique teaching method.

“I can learn from the stuff they talk about. And it gives me the ability to teach others. We have to try and hold back and ask questions that will help them get to the answer,” Tu said.

Although some of the students are singled out because of their background – one student who declined to give her name was raised in a single-parent household, dropped out of high school for half a year, and said that she would never have considered college without AVID –others join just to be a part of the family.

“There’s a lot of kids who think AVID is just a support class, a crutch for students who need help. But it’s not,” STHS senior John Serenio said.

It teaches a new way of looking at problems, he said, and it gives valuable information about getting into college.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed $8.1 million in state funding for the program last June, and although Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent James Tarwater said AVID will be a priority in the district, there might be some changes in fall 2013.

Starting next year, districts will have to pay an AVID membership fee, California AVID Division Director Robin Kisinger said. This upcoming school year will serve as a transitional period where the state office will work with the districts to help them prepare for the additional costs and limited support. At the moment, schools still don’t know how exactly the impact will play out, Kovac said.

In the meantime, members of the AVID family at STHS will continue to support each other and strive for the best.

“The main point of AVID isn’t to get ahead in school. It’s the support we need to get through high school. I feel like it’s definitely a family. We’re all really close, we’re all really close to him (Kovac),” senior Molly Takaki said during Monday’s AVID class.

In other news:

Veterans Day concert to be held

Lake Tahoe Unified School District will celebrate soldiers and veterans with a patriotic concert featuring all the ensembles from South Tahoe Middle School and South Tahoe High School on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in the middle school’s multi-purpose room. STMS is located at 2940 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

South Shore schools to celebrate Veterans Day

Schools in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District as well as Whittell High School and Zephyr Cove Elementary will not have school on Monday for the Veterans Day Holiday.

Applicants sought for Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee

Seven vacancies will open on the Measure G Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee on Jan. 31. Candidates must be at least 18 years old and reside within the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s boundaries. Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 at the superintendent’s office, 1021 Al Tahoe Blvd. For more information and to fill out an application, visit

AVID accepting applications for Community Leadership Fair

The South Tahoe High School AVID College Readiness system will host the first annual Community Leadership Fair on Thursday, Nov. 29. Representatives from local organizations will meet in the STHS student union from 12:30 p.m. until 2:40 p.m. to educate students about the services their group provides to the community. To participate, contact Frank Kovac at with your name, the organization’s name and a description of the services provided.

– Education updates and announcements can be emailed to

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