The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

AVID: Leading Students Towards a Brighter, Unknown and Empowering Future

Paavo Lahdesmaki
Students learning during AVID.

Los Altos High School’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is a four-year elective that prepares students, particularly first-generation students, for college and helps them achieve their career goals. 

Students remain with the same class and teacher for all four years, allowing them to get to know their AVID community more closely.

“I think having the same cohort for four years made the class feel like a genuine, although corny, family,” senior Angely Vargas said. “Mr. Kwan took the time to get to know us over the course of four years and having him consistently made the class feel like a space where we could thrive.”

The freshman class focuses on being introduced to and prepared for high school life and figure out their four year plans. The sophomores are introduced to career options, while juniors start looking into the college admissions process and sharpen their leadership skills. Senior year is all about college, applications, financial aid — the whole nine yards.

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AVID students explore career options through Peak, a career readiness program. During their freshman and sophomore years, students visit different career sites such as LinkedIn. In their junior and senior years, students participate in a mock career fair to help prepare them for applying for internships and jobs.

In addition to Peak, AVID students also visit places such as college campuses and business workplaces during field trips. Some particularly memorable field trips for senior Diana Ramirez were after the pandemic when she went to CSU Monterey Bay during her sophomore year, or when she got to visit LinkedIn offices where she learned about career exploration.

In a survey given to 50 senior AVID students, with 39 respondents, some AVID students expressed their desire for the ability to run fundraisers, as funding was a primary point of improvement. Raising funds would mean more money could be directed toward field trips and resources, such as college application fees.

“Allowing fundraising — we could make a killer carne asada — so we have more funding for college applications, deposits, professional clothes and other necessities, could be an improvement,” Angely said.

Students also spoke about tutorial time — a 45-minute period twice a week where students could get help with work from their peers, tutor or teacher. Some students felt as though the sessions weren’t productive but blamed themselves for not staying on task. Other students credited tutorial time for offering them a time where they could work through problems without judgment.

“I remember tutorial sessions during my sophomore year were the reason I excelled in my Algebra 2 class,” senior Elizabeth Guting said. “I was able to ask anything I was confused about, and my tutor and peers helped me work through the problems without judgment.”

Along with field trips, seniors appreciated AVID for helping them with their college application process. AVID presented students with unique opportunities — ranging from internships to help with college essays and financial aid applications — which helped prepare students for their future.

“We walk them through all the way,” AVID teacher Jonathan Kwan said. “There are a lot of different hoops that AVID seniors in particular have to consider that some students on campus don’t, so we’re navigating that process.”

“AVID has helped me so much during the college process,” senior said. “Without the help of my AVID mentor and Mr. Kwan, I would be very lost. There were resources that we used that helped us budget and make good decisions on what college would be great for us financially.”

Senior students are also directly involved with admitting freshmen students into AVID. Seniors can volunteer to go to surrounding middle schools, such as Egan, and interview incoming 9th graders about their ambitions and interests. What follows is an interview with an AVID teacher, which delves into their family’s socioeconomic status. Afterward, AVID seniors and teachers discuss each student. 

“Eighth graders open up more to us about what they do than to adults because we relate to them,” senior Akemi Flores said. 

With AVID’s future personally overseen by its students, the class will hopefully continue to thrive for years to come. Despite some improvements recommended by its senior class, AVID at its core remains a class meant to support and guide students through high school and into their adult lives. 

Note: The survey in this article was completed by respondents in a sample size of 39 senior students in two AVID periods. There are a total of 50 senior students in AVID. 

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About the Contributors
Ivan Sandoval-Navarro
Ivan Sandoval-Navarro, Staff Writer
Paavo Lahdesmaki
Paavo Lahdesmaki, Staff Writer
Annabelle Lee
Annabelle Lee, Staff Writer

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