WAUKESHA, Wis. — In 2020, both Waukesha North and South High Schools were recognized for school-wide growth and performance among students preparing for college and careers.
The high schools were recognized as National AVID Schoolwide Sites of Distinction, the highest certification in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) system that the School District of Waukesha has implemented.
High school seniors Samuel Macias and Zamaria Barnes vividly remember the moment they each got into their top college.
Zamaria is the first in her family to attend college, while Samuel is the second in his family after his sister. Both received scholarships that will help them finish college debt-free.
"I was just jumping with joy. I was definitely dancing. After I saw the letter I was like wait is this real," said Barnes.
"It was amazing because my parents were crying. My sister was crying. We're all just in tears of joy," said Macias.
Both said AVID helped them get to this point.
"I would say I'm a totally different person. It's helped me a lot with communication skills, that's a big thing. It's helped me with also just pushing myself," said Macias.
"They definitely helped me strive to be better because at first, I wasn't really sure I was going to get accepted into this college, but with AVID they pushed me towards it," said Barnes.
"AVID is a system that's designed to close the opportunity gap for all students to prepare them for college and career readiness," said Amanda Wagner, AVID coordinator at the School District of Waukesha.
The system, offered at all grade levels in different ways, has helped students with improving their writing, collaboration, reading, and organization skills. They also learn how to set goals, handle a job interview, and other life skills.
"Typically our AVID students, many are first-generation college growing students. Many have middle-of-the-road grades, but with support, they are challenging themselves, taking advanced placement," Wagner explained.
The distinction was the result of the high schools meeting certain metrics that demonstrate growth in college applications, rigorous course offerings and enrollment, and developing a "college-going culture."
Waukesha North High School reported 71 percent of all seniors applied to and were accepted to a 2 or 4-year college or university. At Waukesha South High School, 80 percent of seniors fell into that category.
Since implementing AVID programming, Wagner said more students are taking a college-level course before graduation.
"These are metrics that show AVID is not just impacting our AVID elective students who have AVID in their schedule. The methodologies and practices of AVID are impacting our whole building really creating a culture of college and career readiness," said Wagner.
Next fall, Barnes will go to Simpson College in Iowa with dreams of becoming a child psychologist or family lawyer. Samuel will head to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to start working toward becoming a bilingual teacher.
In 2020, the school district reports it had 53 AVID scholars win more than $2.5 million in scholarships.