Preparing students to be successful in college and life

AVID at Gilpin County School District RE-1

By Suzanne Paulman

Gilpin County School District RE-1 offers a unique academic program known by the acronym of AVID to all of its middle and high school students. In the following interview from March of the 2012-13 academic school year, middle and high school Principal Alexis Donaldson describes the program and the advantage of its educational offerings.

What is the AVID program?

The AVID program is Advancement Through Individual Determination. It is based on the idea that with the right support and skills, students can be successful at a higher level of education. The foundation of the program is to prepare AVID students with a valuable skill set to be successful at any four year university. It is based on a WICOR philosophy of writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading.

Staff and administration wanted to bring the AVID program to our school about 11 years ago. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the funds. When the Colorado Growth Model came up, and staff was asked how we could increase student growth and achievement, AVID was the number one recommendation from the staff. Thanks to the Black Hawk educational funding we were able to pursue AVID. We are now in our fourth year of the AVID program.

How does a student enroll in an AVID class?

It is an elective class and students fill out an application. For the coming school year (2013-14) we are thinking about holding interviews.

It begins at sixth grade and continues through tenth grade this year. Eleventh grade will be added next year and twelfth grade the year after that. Each grade level has a different curriculum and it is in line with the common core standards for reading and writing.

Which teachers participate in the program and how are they trained?

All of our core teachers have been AVID trained. Our elective teachers are chosen by recommendation based on a good fit for the program, along with their availability in the schedule.

How do you select tutors for the program?

Adult tutors are selected through advertising and recruited through people who would be interested and a good fit for the course. Currently we have five adult tutors and three have been with us all four years. They receive a full day of initial training with the rest of the training on the job with the elective teachers. We also have five student tutors from the high school who receive an elective credit for their participation in the course.

  The AVID program has been a huge asset to our school. It has made our students better students and our teachers better teachers. In most school districts a very small population of students benefit from AVID. In our school all students benefit.

AVID Student Feedback

Along with Principal Donaldson, several students who participated in the AVID program were interviewed last year regarding their experience in the program.

Chase Boulter (freshman): Chase is from Central City and started AVID when he was in the seventh grade. After three years of participating in the program, he says the best part of it is “getting time to start thinking about college and prepare for college.” Chase has AVID classes every school day along with group tutorials twice a week. He also likes interacting with other students in their group tutorial presentations. Chase acknowledges that because of being an AVID student he is “better off for it academically.” For new students entering the program, he recommends that they “stay focused and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t seem to get results now.” Chase is on his way toward a successful college career with solid academic help from his AVID classes.

Hannah Randall (freshman): Hannah is originally from Illinois, but now considers Gilpin County her home. She started AVID in the seventh grade and has been in the program for three years. Hannah considers the best part of AVID is learning organization skills, “meaning my binder,” in helping her to be better prepared for classes. She also appreciates the “lot of writing in WICR” as it contributes to her academic preparation for college. She’s staying in the program next school year to help with her goal of becoming a doctor. Hannah readily agrees that she “wouldn’t be thinking about college as much without AVID.” For her future college goals AVID is a perfect fit for Hannah.

Ben Mestdagh (sophomore): Ben has been in AVID for four years, starting the program at Gilpin when he was in the seventh grade. Ben is an AVID advocate and states, “AVID helps me understand what I’m learning.” One of his favorite parts of the program is the group tutorials where a student’s academic question is discussed in detail. “I like the tutorials because they help me understand what I may be confused about.” Ben knows that his AVID skill set will help him to be better organized in college and “have a higher level of thinking.” He plans on continuing in the program and may consider being an AVID student tutor in the future. Ben’s recommendation to new AVID students is encouraging, “You may not like it at first, but it really pays off in your classes.” He also says, “If you want to be great at something, you have to put forth the effort.”  That’s excellent advice from a dedicated AVID student on his way to a great college career.

More information on the AVID program is available from the Gilpin County School. Please contact Kirsten Goodlett at 303-582-3555 or e-mail her at

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