AVID and Skills Classes Form Tutoring Partnership


Sophomores Natalie Ramirez (left) and Odethe Virgen Barajas (right) study together during a free period. Both students are involved in the AVID and Skills classes tutoring program that pairs AVID student tutors with Skills students to help with homework after school three times a week. Photo by Francesca Fallow.

Long known for their effective peer tutoring system, the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) classes have recently branched out, effectively expanding their roles and becoming tutors for students in English 10.

AVID is a college preparatory program for students who are typically underrepresented at four-year universities for reasons including ethnicity, family income or difficult circumstances at home. AVID students are often first-generation college students, or students who find themselves to be the first in their families with the opportunity to attend a university.

AVID teachers stay with their students for all four years of their journey through high school, and sophomore AVID instructor Arantxa Arriada explains that while AVID is an academic program, in many ways, it is also much more.

“By the time [the students] graduate, it’s like a family,” Arriada said.

Connected through AVID all of high school, students in AVID also receive support in courses they might normally feel out of place in by working through them together.

“This year because [my students] are sophomores, a lot of them are having a first experience with honors and AP,” Arriada said. “AVID is really nice because sometimes in those classes students don’t feel like they belong, but with AVID they know they have [the support of] other AVID students in the same classes, and [can] work together as a cohort.”

A pivotal part of the AVID program is student tutoring. Two days a week, students who have had experience taking honors and AP courses come in to help tutor the AVID students. AVID tutoring is an actual class that students take, and AVID teachers have expressed how prominent and beneficial the tutoring system has been for the success of the program.

“[Peer tutoring has] been amazing, especially once [AVID students] start taking AP and honors classes,” department coordinator Keren Dawson-Bowman said. “[The tutors] are usually older juniors and seniors who are incredibly helpful [when it comes to] having the AVID students be successful in the class and learn the material. I haven’t done math since I was 18 years old, so it’s really helpful to have students who know the material, have been through the classes and know the teachers.”

The tutoring AVID students receive has, in many ways, prepared them for a new role as tutors for the English 10 classes. When English teacher Carrie Abel realized that some of her students were struggling in other classes like geometry, she wondered if a tutoring partnership with AVID might be beneficial.

“I knew that for many students, the tutorial center is this scary place where upperclassmen sit at tables and you are supposed to approach them,” Abel said. “So I thought about how a lot of my students knew those in Ms. Arriada’s [AVID class] and might be more comfortable [working together] because they knew each other.”

Arriada was pleased when some of her students volunteered to spend their free time after school helping their classmates on a multitude of topics, benefiting students like sophomore English 10 student Natalie Ramirez.

“I like it because I feel I am free to be wrong, and since she’s my friend it’s comfortable,” Natalie said. “If I was over [at the tutorial center I would be  tutored by] people I didn’t know, so I wouldn’t feel as confident to ask questions, whereas here, I can just ask [my tutor] anything and I know that she won’t make me feel bad about not knowing stuff.”

While the program originally began as a casual situation solely focused on aiding the English 10 students in geometry, it has grown into a full-fledged program after seventh period on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, where any Skills student who needs help can drop into room 503 after school and receive assistance from an AVID tutor, whom they continue to work with on a long term basis.

What makes the program particularly effective is the fact that  AVID and English 10 students seem to understand each other in a significant and unique way. In some ways, the AVID students have been where the English 10 students are, and having a tutor who has walked in their shoes is often very helpful.

Sophomore Jazlyn Mejia is an AVID student-turned-tutor who spends her seventh periods on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays with Natalie, working with her on any questions she has regarding any subject. The duo, friends outside of class and now even closer thanks to the tutoring process, have fallen into an effective rhythm in which they are able to set goals and accomplish them successfully.

“Natalie has told me before that she used to have a tutor who was in calculus, and that the tutor was really good, [but Natalie] was really uncomfortable and scared to ask her any questions because she didn’t want to look dumb,” Jazlyn said. “[I told her] ‘No, you have to ask.’ And she said that she feels more comfortable with me because we can joke around, talk about our day, and [still] be very productive.”

Jazlyn, highly conscientious regarding the progress she makes as a tutor, sees her and Natalie as a team rather than a student and teacher.

“Up until I started tutoring, I would always say, ‘I’m never going to be a teacher’,” Jazlyn said. “‘I just don’t want to be a teacher.’ But then I realized that being a teacher is much more than just grading. I know how they feel when their students don’t do as well. They get upset. And that’s how I feel about Natalie. When she doesn’t do well, I feel like I could have done better, [but] it’s a very powerful feeling when she comes up to me and tells me, ‘Hey, I aced my Algebra II test.’ I feel like we accomplished something.”

For students like Jazlyn, who have always felt that they have been the “tutees,” as Arriada said, tutoring has been an empowering experience.

“I think [tutoring] built my confidence [because it showed me that] I could help people,” Jazlyn said. “Being Hispanic, I’m always kind of scared to speak up and speak my mind, but when I tutor I can let my ideas be shown.”