Hiromi Calderon, a 7th grader at Jack Jouett Middle Schools, talks on a student panel about the AVID program.
As personal computing devices creep further into public school classrooms across the nation, some teachers are going back to the basics.
“While there’s a really big push for innovation in technology, AVID is actually the balance to all of that, which is important and refreshing,” said Maureen Jensen, coordinator for the Advancement Via Individual Determination program at Jack Jouett Middle School. “It’s important to say, ‘Let’s not throw out what we know already works for this computer or iPad or whatever the technology may be.’”
AVID is a national college-readiness program aimed at closing the so-called achievement gap, and usually serves students who will be among the first in their families to go to college. The program has been implemented in almost 5,000 schools in 45 states and 16 countries, and has served more than 700,000 students.
Jack Jouett Middle School — named an AVID demonstration school in 2013 — recently played host to an event highlighting the initiative.
Students apply to AVID, and if selected, take an AVID course in place of an elective. Jensen said that while Jouett spreads AVID’s instructional principles throughout the school, the program focuses on the five core skills educators know to work: writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading.
“That’s what you’re going to need to be successful in college, those skills are what you’re going to need to be successful in life,” Jensen said. “And we constantly cycle strategies and lessons back around that foundation.”
So far, that foundation is helping students meet high school graduation requirements. In 2013, 94 percent of the nation’s African-American AVID students met four-year college entrance requirements, compared with 25 percent of non-AVID African-Americans.
Similarly, 92 percent of Latino AVID students nationally met those requirements, compared with 22 percent of non-AVID Latinos.
Across all minority populations nationally, 93 percent of AVID students met college requirements, compared with 36 percent of non-AVID students.
Locally, students in Charlottesville City Schools can participate in AVID beginning in the fifth grade. In Albemarle, all three comprehensive high schools participate, as do Burley, Walton and Jack Jouett middle schools.
Hiromi Calderon, a seventh-grader at Jouett, said AVID has helped her grow as a student.
“I would always be the one who laughed and talked in class, but now I’m more serious,” Hiromi said, noting that she’s become more confident and organized in her studies, as well.
“Before I didn’t care much about school,” she said. “I would just fill stuff out, but the information didn’t get stuck in my mind the way it should be. Now the information is getting stuck in my mind and I’m actually learning.”
Hiroshi Calderon, an eighth-grader at Jouett and Hiromi’s brother, said the program is worth the effort.
“Even though it’s challenging, it’s good because it’s getting me ready for the future,” Hiroshi said.
Omando Blake, a sixth-grader at Jouett, said that he has received a lot of support from the initiative and learned both teamwork and social skills.
Ximena Lopez, an eighth-grader at Jouett, said making college visits with AVID has helped her to visualize how higher education works, and what she is being prepared for. The program also has boosted her confidence.
“It has helped me become more outgoing and become a leader rather than someone who just stands in the background,” Ximena said. 
Jensen said she sees the AVID students developing as people and as learners.
“What you see with the AVID students is the maturation of leaders,” Jensen said. “They help others … they take initiative to start activities at the school.”
“Whenever we have a program where we need kids to run something, we’re always looking to the eighth-grade AVID kids,” she said.
Hiroshi said that what he truly values about AVID is the community it creates.
“It’s nice to see people like you who are trying to accomplish things,” he said. “You feel safe, you feel like you’re family.”