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Island Coast students get jump on college preparation

By Staff | Sep 22, 2011

A special dinner was held for students Tuesday night at Island Coast High School to get them excited about researching colleges and universities to attend after graduation.

When the Advancement Via Individual Determination program kicked off for the first time at Island Coast High School last year, 72 freshmen were accepted. This year, the program has expanded to a little more than 200 freshmen and sophomores.

AVID is an elective college preparatory program that helps students prepare for college through its mission statement “to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.”

AVID began in 1980 with 32 students at San Diego’s Clairemont High School.

The students work on their writing, reading, inquiry and collaboration while enrolled in the AVID program.

Island Coast High School AVID teacher Nancy Hagy helped jumpstart the program to get the teens excited last year by reaching out to colleges and universities in Florida, along with other states, to ask them to send her a T-shirt, so she could give them to the students.

The T-shirts helped grab the students’ interest and attention because each was given a specific school to research through the year so as to learn what the college has to offer.

The tradition continued this year for the freshmen students Tuesday night as they found out which school T-shirt Hagy chose for them to receive after a spaghetti dinner was served for the students and their family.

Hagy called each freshman up to a table in the cafeteria as she announced what college they will be responsible for researching by handing them a tee bearing a different college or university name.

The students received shirts from schools around the United States and some international schools as well.

“Four years from now your child is going to be sitting in college,” Hagy told the parents. “Don’t blink, it’s going to happen faster than you think.”

Before the parents left the cafeteria Tuesday night they were asked to sign a contact outlining various student goals and responsibilities.

Hagy said the contract is important because it is a three-way bargain among the students, teachers and parents.

The contract had to have a signature from the student, parent or guardian, AVID site coordinator or teacher, AVID counselor and AVID administrator.

AVID social studies teacher Adam Statti said he spends a lot of time teaching reading, writing strategies and collaboration to get students ready for college. In addition, he also spends a great deal of time teaching them note taking skills that will benefit them in college.

Although sophomore Cameron Harward joined the program last year, he admitted that he did not know what to expect.

“Now it is my life,” he said about the program.

Once he really got into the program, his grades began to improve because he had more confidence in himself and learned how to become organized. So far this year he is earning all A’s and B’s in his courses.

Part of the course work in the AVID program involves the students researching the school that Hagy adopted for them as a freshman. So far Harward said he has done a two-page report about The University of Oregon twice a quarter, which has taught him a lot about the school.

“I will keep Oregon for the rest of high school,” he said.

After he graduates from Island Coast High School, he plans on attending the University of Central Florida to earn a degree in either hospitality or business management.

Another student who has seen an improvement in his grades is sophomore Caleb Stewart. He said he has received straight A’s for the first time due to the program.

In addition to the AVID class keeping Stewart organized, he said the tutoring he receives from Island Coast seniors twice a week for 45 minutes really helps with his grades as well.

Each student in the AVID program has a tutoring session with a senior, so they continue to strive in their studies.

“We have to write a summary at the end of what they taught us,” Stewart said about the tutoring session.

Last year he was given Vanderbilt University to study and research; his older brother started attending there this year.

“It makes you want to go to college because you learn more about it,” Stewart said about studying a college.

He hopes to earn a football scholarship so he can attend college and become an English teacher.

Sophomore Jennine Jacotin said since the thought of college has always been on her mind, along with wanting to do better for herself, she enrolled in the program last year.

She will be the first in her family to attend college.

“I want to make my parents proud,” Jacotin said.

Although she has not decided what school to attend after graduation she knows she wants to either become an ultrasound technician or a physical therapist.

The AVID program has helped her on a personal and academic level.

“It taught me there is more to high school than partying,” Jacotin said. “It taught me about my capabilities and what I can accomplish … that I can and will do better.”

Her grades went from C’s and B’s last year to B’s and A’s this year.

Barry University has been the school Jacotin has researched since her freshman year, which she said she loves doing.

“Researching colleges helps you know what to do and how to get there,” she said, adding that it also helps keep her head in the books.