Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Education

High school ends, but not opportunities for these students

DADE CITY

David Guadarrama didn't start high school thinking about what was coming next. College definitely wasn't in the picture. "I didn't really take education seriously before," he said. "In my freshman year I was struggling to get a 3.0 (grade point average). This year, during my last semester I had a 4.5."

Fueled by scholarships, some financial aid, a hefty push from a college prep program and his own resources, Guadarrama is set to graduate with honors in a class of 282 at Pasco High. To top it off, he has figured out what comes next — the University of South Florida, with thoughts of a career in the science or medical field.

"I'm going to start with biology and see if I like that," he said. "Then I'll take it from there."

He's likely to be better than okay according to Mignon Edwards, adviser for the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program at Pasco High. So are other AVID graduates who have worked hard to realize their potential while sticking together, more like a family than schoolmates.

College is a given for many, but too far a reach for others without some intervention, said Edwards, noting that language barriers, socioeconomics and lack of parents' education present hurdles for many students.

Four years ago, she helped recruit 50 freshmen to enroll in a new grant-funded college preparation course offered at Pasco and Ridgewood high schools. The AVID program was founded in 1980 by Marie Swanson, an English teacher in San Diego, Calif., who wanted to level the playing field for all after desegregation brought a plethora of under-served students to her high-performing high school. Now AVID is in more than 4,800 K-12 schools across the country, including a handful in Pasco County.

"It's a rigorous (elective) course that opens the doors for students to be proactive in their education," AVID teacher Carol Stout said. "The program is for students who have middle-of-the-road test scores that could be swept into the cracks. It's not that they are low-achieving. College is not necessarily on their radar. Most of them are the first in their family to go to college. "

In the ensuing years, all but 13 students dropped out of the inaugural class at Pasco High, many opting for other electives, even as growing enrollment led to a waiting list for underclassmen and more than a dozen teachers opting to sign on for AVID training.

Although the original 50 will graduate, the remaining 13 AVID students have all been accepted to four-year colleges and universities. Among those — the Ringling College of Art and Design, University of South Florida, Full Sail University, Florida Atlantic and Stetson University. All told, AVID students have racked up more than $40,000 in scholarships.

"Oh yeah, we're excited. We're fired up," Edwards said. "To see the growth in these kids is amazing."

There's Jessica Gamez, 18, a Take Stock in Children scholarship recipient who struggled with clinical depression. She is just shy of receiving her associate in arts degree through duel enrollment at Pasco Hernando State College and plans to study film at Full Sail University in Orlando.

"Miss Edwards had me take a personality test and I realized that I'm a film fanatic," Gamez said. "I might want to write screenplays or direct. I think it's a good way to channel my creativity."

She has seen so may aspects of education because of AVID, so she's really comfortable with her choice," mom Natali Gamez said.

"It's an excellent program. It's really kept her motivated," said her dad, Josman Gamez.

Then there's Eric Martinez, 18, who learned how to deal with an attention deficiency and having to become the man of the family at an early age.

"My father left when I was 8 years old and I haven't seen him since," Martinez said, adding that he wanted a better life for himself and his younger siblings. "I always had the ideology to go to college, but wasn't sure how to get there. My idea about it was very vague. I took a bunch of honors classes because I thought that was the way to do it, then AVID came along. It helped my confidence. Helped me take the right classes and helped with volunteer opportunities."

Martinez was the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from Withlacoochee River Electric and has been accepted to several schools. To save on tuition, he plans to attend Pasco Hernando State College before moving on to study law — hopefully at his dream school, Florida State.

"I know that without this class I would not be graduating," said Kimberly Cales, 18. "Four years ago I had D's and F's and was not going to pass my freshman year. Now I'm all A's and B's.

Cales, who plans to go into law enforcement, will attend PHSC with hopes of transferring to the University of Tampa.

"These are the teachers I will definitely come back to see," she said of her AVID instructors. "They are always there for you — even for things outside the classroom, like if you need a ride or money for lunch. We're like family."

And Sergio Contreras, 19, who envisioned a better life than the ones laid out by adult role models in his own family who landed in jail.

"They (teachers) saved me. When I cross that stage, I know it's going to be because of them. This is a place to get help, a place to feel comfortable — the best support system," said Contreras, who, after writing an essay on his experience, was selected to speak at AVID's 2014 Summer Institute in Tampa.

Contreras also received a $10,000 scholarship from Withlacoochee River Electric. He wants to be a physical therapist and is waiting on word from his dream school — the University of South Florida. Just in case, he has a fall-back plan — as any prepared student should.

"After all of these years, it's just falling into place," he said. "It's bittersweet. I mean, we finally made it and at the same time, it's over. We're never going to be high school students again. We're going to be college students.

"That's a good thing because I never thought I'd be saying that."

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] or (727) 869-6251. Follow @MicheleMiller52.

 
Comments
Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18