OHS celebrates AVID revalidation

Ector County Independent School District’s AVID and Post Secondary District Director Amy Anderson speaks during an AVID revalidation celebration Tuesday afternoon at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center. (Odessa American/Eli Hartman)

Odessa High School has been revalidated as a National AVID Demonstration Site and teachers, counselors, students, administrators, and district officials celebrated the occasion Tuesday at the OHS Performing Arts Center.

AVID and Postsecondary District Director Amy Anderson said very few people know the amount of work it takes to reach this milestone.

Anderson noted that the process to revalidate was virtual because of COVID.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Its website says its mission is to close the opportunity gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.

It also teaches students note taking, time management and organization among other skills.

Principal of Odessa High School Mauricio Marquez speaks with OHS AVID faculty during an AVID revalidation celebration Tuesday afternoon at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center. (Odessa American/Eli Hartman)

Anderson said OHS AVID Director Naomi Fuentes worked from last summer through the year and had to try several times before national AVID officials gave their approval partly because they couldn’t sense the culture virtually.

Anderson said Fuentes and her team worked their magic and AVID said it was the best ever.

“… Anyone who’s been doing this, we are one of the very few in the entire nation that accomplished it, and of those very few, y’all are the very best,” Anderson said.

OHS Principal Mauricio Marquez said a lot of people don’t understand all the hard work that goes on to reach revalidation. He added that people from AVID didn’t go to the school, didn’t visit classrooms, didn’t walk the hallways. They evaluated the revalidation virtually.

CBS 7 Anchor Matthew Alvarez, an OHS graduate and former AVID student, said this is a really big accomplishment. He noted that the process is incredibly rigorous.

He got the chance to see the process in action when OHS first became a national demonstration site.

“And that process was incredibly difficult,” Alvarez said.

He added that he couldn’t imagine having to navigate the process during the pandemic.

Anderson said the revalidation is amazing.

“They actually had the choice, even from AVID Center to not push through and revalidate just because of all the extra challenges and barriers that validating virtually presents. But they let nothing stand in their way. They’re like, no, you tell us the barriers that need to be broken down and we’ll break those down. I think that it speaks highly of the leadership, the teachers and the students that they are persistent, resilient and demand excellence,” Anderson said.

She added that there are about 500 AVID students in ninth through 12th grade.

Without AVID, some of the students would fall through the cracks.

From left, Odessa High School AVID Coordinator Naomi Fuentes, CBS7 Morning Anchor and OHS AVID graduate Matthew Alvarez and OHS Principal Mauricio Marquez pose for a photo during an AVID revalidation celebration Tuesday afternoon at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center. (Odessa American/Eli Hartman)

“Oftentimes what you hear from our business community is that all of our students have these degrees, but they don’t have the skills that go with that, or from our colleges. Yes, they meet all the requirements to get into our school, but they don’t have the skills to persist and achieve. So that’s what AVID does,” Anderson said.

“AVID gives them that balance of supporting the academic rigor that they need to achieve, as well as developing the skills that they need such as organization, persistence, grit. What do I do when I fail just to really develop that … growth mindset or innovation mindset?” she added.

Fuentes said the revalidation means the work they do at OHS has been acknowledged.

“It means a lot. It was hard. At first I thought, well, maybe we should postpone it because they were offering that option to us,” Fuentes said.

The national AVID officials weren’t seeing and feeling the culture, even through videos. AVID said there was no shame in putting it off one more year so they could visit in person.

But Fuentes was determined to get through it and AVID Center said “awesome things” about OHS.

“It felt good,” she said.

Alvarez said AVID had an incredible impact on him. It pushed him to keep himself organized and together throughout his high school career at OHS.

“But not only that, the teachers are so supportive in your post-high school experience, whether it be in the workforce, military, or through college or university. So overall, it’s just the support you have from the teachers and the site team members and really all the staff at OHS,” Alvarez said.

He added that there are skills he still uses that he learned in AVID.

“I definitely use the organizational skills to this day. The note taking skills are absolutely vital and so crucial to me in my career today. I’d say those are the key points and also the perseverance that AVID … teachers instilled in you when I was in high school. That was something that was important to me and … a big part of why I was able to get where I am today,” Alvarez said.

Alexa Soto, a 16-year-old sophomore, and 17-year-old junior Elizabeth Tarin are both in the AVID program and echo what Alvarez said.

“I think that it has really impacted my life and I think that keeping me organized and sharing different ideas and doing different structures has really helped me open my voice to the world. We used to do a lot of speeches and projects and it really helps me be able to speak to more than a classroom,” Soto said.

Tarin said AVID also has had a big impact on her because now she gets to volunteer and meet a lot of people.

“I used to be a very shy girl. But now I am open minded about a lot of things and like what she said about organization, AVID organizes me for college, it prepares you for a lot of things. With volunteer hours, you’ve helped more people than you think you do. We get to learn about different things and it’s just an amazing experience that we’ve had,” Tarin added.