Riversprings Middle School in Wakulla County, Florida is one of only 152 schools in the United States to achieve AVID National Demonstration School status. In Florida, there are only seven middle schools earning national recognition, all of them in the central or southern part of the state.
AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) is an internationally successful non-profit college preparation program that began in the 1980s with one teacher in one classroom who saw college potential in students who were capable but not well prepared for college, or who were not encouraged to take college prep classes.
Currently, AVID is implemented in over 5,600 schools in 44 states and 16 countries, impacting over 900,000 students. Many of the AVID students are first in their family to graduate from college.
The goal is to target students who have the drive and desire to go to college, but who may not be recommended for advanced classes. These are capable students who are taught strategies to succeed in a rigorous curriculum. “It’s not about just getting into college. It’s about being prepared to stay there and graduate, then going on to have successful careers,” states RMS Principal Michele Yeomans. “Why wouldn’t we want to offer that to all of our students?”
National Demonstration Schools seek to help all students prepare for college and serve as visitation sites for schools who want to implement or improve their AVID programs. AVID Chief Executive Officer Sandy Husk, PhD, notes, "Schools recognized as National Demonstration sites have proven their ability to successfully implement the AVID Elective course and take the strategies schoolwide to impact all students."
RMS was selected through an application process, screening, and review that included a site visit from AVID state and national representatives.
RMS Site Coordinator and AVID Elective teacher Kelly Dykes organized the effort to become an AVID National Demonstration School. She had help from Principal Yeomans, AVID Elective teacher Stan Ward, and all of the hard-working RMS academic and elective teachers who knew there were many more students who could achieve at a higher level if they were only shown the tools to succeed, such as how to create tutorial sessions and study groups.
AVID also encourages field trips to colleges, guest speakers on careers, and parental involvement.
AVID began in Wakulla County schools in 2009 with just 75 students and now impacts hundreds of students in grades 6-12 at RMS, Wakulla Middle, and Wakulla High School. Fifth grade teachers also have been trained in AVID strategies. Wakulla AVID District Director Katherine Spivey supported the initiative from the beginning as an AVID Elective teacher at Wakulla Middle School.
“It’s really about bringing skills such as organization, planning, critical thinking and reading, plus science and math best practices into a systemized delivery of instruction. We have great teachers, and they have all contributed something to earn us recognition as an AVID National Demonstration School. But it’s about helping our students succeed, not just earning that status,” says Principal Yeomans.
Says Superintendent Bobby Pearce, “If something works for some students, we want to share that with as many students as we can. Every tool they have in their toolbox can only help them be more successful with college, technical training, and career opportunities. Congratulations to Riversprings for emphasizing the value of that.”