SOUTH SALT LAKE — Austin and Kyle Mangum, twin brothers and ninth-grade students at Granite Park Junior High School in Granite School District, aren’t afraid to step outside their comfort zone.
Kyle is a member of the school’s musical choir, one of just a handful of boys who participate in the program.
Austin is a member of the school’s dance team. And who's the only other male member of the squad?
His brother Kyle.
Both boys credit their confidence to try new things to the school’s Advancement via Individual Determination program, an extracurricular class that encourages students to plan their academic futures while in middle school.
The program at Granite Park recently received certification as an AVID school from the national AVID board. The school was also deemed a demonstration school because of its successful and organized program.
Schools throughout the western United States wishing to implement AVID are encouraged to visit and observe how Granite Park has efficiently and effectively worked with teachers and students to achieve new academic goals.
Last year, 82 percent of Utah AVID students completed all requirements to attend a four-year university. The national average of students who complete all requirements to attend college while in high school is just 36 percent.
AVID is a college-readiness program aimed to assist students who lie in the “academic middle,” said principal Taran Chun.
“Traditionally, schools have enrichment programs for high-achieving students and remediation programs for low-achieving students,” he said. “AVID is an elective class that aims to get students college-ready by teaching them knowledge and skills they will need to know to be successful in postsecondary education.”
Participants in the program are given binders that are specifically designed to encourage critical thinking and to help the students take detailed and organized notes and identify areas they don’t quite understand.
“It’s really just great teaching practices,” said Linda Funyak, district AVID coordinator. “Many teachers are now using the Cornell note-taking (style) in their own classrooms, and students are involved in critical thinking and the inquiry process. It says to students, ‘You can go to college, and we are here to help you figure that out.'”
Kyle Mangum has reaped the benefits of the program.
“It makes me think about how much better my life can be,” he said. “It motivates me to try new things. It not only helps me in school, but it helps me in life. It helps me to set goals.”
Austin Mangum couldn’t agree more.
“It keeps me organized and helps me to push myself beyond my limits,” he said. “It makes me go the extra mile, and it has helped me to see new opportunities in school and in the community.”
The tutorial groups in which students participate are a vital part of the program's success.
During their AVID class period, students gather together to discuss questions they are having trouble answering in their academic classes, receiving assistance from University of Utah students who volunteer with the group. Students don’t give one another answers to the questions; instead, they encourage each other to think critically through the process and find the point of confusion through questioning.
Kyle Mangum proposed the question “Would you run with the bulls in Spain? Why or why not?” to his tutorial group. Students responded by asking what the purpose of the running is and what information he already had about the event.
The questioning prompted Kyle to draw conclusions he hadn’t thought of before.
After tutorial time, students conduct reflections on the processes they used to answer questions that day and if they could improve.
“These kids are amazing,” said Keri Graybill, one of the longest-participating AVID teachers in the state.
In her eight years of teaching in the program, Graybill said, it’s been rewarding to see former participants who are now first-generation college students return to her classroom.
“The outcome is amazing,” she said. “They are not afraid to try new things. It not only helps them to get to college, but it helps them to become a well-rounded person.”
Angie Manzanares is a former teacher and journalist. She currently works for the Granite School District as a public relations specialist. Her hobbies include photography, graphic design, dancing, and screaming at Jazz games.