First District 622 AVID students graduate

The first North High AVID class attended a special lunch as a group several days before the June 8 commencement.

The first group of Tartan students who participated in AVID classes will be graduating June 9.

AVID program pushes students and promotes college readiness


Graduation time is almost upon us with North High School’s commencement ceremony taking place on June 8 and Tartan’s on June 9. This year’s ceremonies will include the first District 622 students to complete the AVID program.

AVID stands for “advancement via individual determination,” and is a global nonprofit dedicated to college readiness. 

Tartan English teacher Kristen Fuerst has taught the now senior group of AVID students since they were freshmen, though most of the kids joined the program when they were in seventh-graders.

 “I believed in the mission of AVID, that all students could become successful high school students and future college graduates, if they were motivated and determined, while also having support,” Fuerst said, adding that when she first heard the program was coming to Tartan, she knew she wanted to be a part of it.

According to the organization’s website, the AVID program specifically targets students performing at the academic middle who have the capacity and drive to “complete rigorous curriculum, but are falling short of their potential.”



Graduating senior Mariana Cervantes was one such student.

Cervantes joined the AVID program when she was in seventh grade at Skyview Middle School, the first year it was offered in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District, and she stuck with AVID throughout her four years at Tartan. 

“Most of the students in AVID are first-generation college students,” she said. She indicated that this was true for her, and said that she wouldn’t have pushed herself as much if it wasn’t for her involvement in the program.

Cervantes said that the AVID class meets once a day, just like any other class. The AVID students prepared for ACT tests and learned how to fill out a federal FAFSA student aid form. They practiced writing resumes and took time to apply for scholarships. The AVID students also met as study groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays to practice figuring assignments out for themselves without a teacher’s help.

“They knew that they needed to be well-rounded students, so the students joined clubs, volunteered and became leaders,” Fuerst said.  “In this group there are captains of teams and officers of various organizations like National Honor Society, Business Professionals of America, the Real, DECA, Uprising, etc.”  

Cervantes is the secretary for Uprising, an extracurricular service group, and the vice president for Tartan’s DECA chapter. DECA is an organization dedicated to preparing emerging leaders and entrepreneurs. 

According to Cervantes, the AVID program also required the students to take at least one college preparation or advanced-placement course for college credits each year. For her senior year, Cervantes took CIS macroeconomics and CIS political science. CIS courses are certified for college credits through either Century College or the University of Minnesota.

One component of the AVID program that Cervantes especially appreciated was the college tours that the group went on.

“It was great for me because I wasn’t able to get that at home,” she said, adding that it gave her the chance to see the differences in colleges programs and campuses, and when she found one that she liked, she was more dedicated to studying for her ACT exam.

Cervantes will attend Hamline University next year and plans to double major in criminal justice and psychology. She was awarded an AVID scholarship for $1,000.


North High

North High School’s AVID seniors are also the first group to reach graduation, as the North and Tartan programs started at the same time, and there is only one AVID scholarship awarded for each school. 

Axumawit Araya received the AVID scholarship reserved for a North student. She will be attending St. Catherine University next fall and received the $15,000 dean scholarship through that school.

Sara Martinez, the North AVID site coordinator, said that the seniors recently talked with elementary school students about the college campuses they visited and shared with the younger students their personal experiences of working towards the goal of college admission. 

She added that at North, every grade level of AVID students goes on three field trips. In ninth grade one of the trips involves volunteering, but the other 11 trips are all to colleges, some as far away as Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter and Minnesota State University-Mankato.

The senior group had a special field trip this year. Martinez said the AVID teachers all chipped in money to take the students to lunch at the St. Paul Hotel.

“We had teachers write letters to the students about [the students’ improvements] they have seen the last four years,” Martinez said. The letters were distributed at the lunch event.


Two successful groups

According to Martinez, all of North’s AVID students have been accepted to either a two- or four-year college and all received some sort of scholarship.

Cervantes said the 40 seniors in the Tartan AVID program have been accepted to at least one college and collectively they have received around $2 million in scholarships.

She added that a big part of the Tartan group’s success was thanks to the help and guidance they received from Fuerst. 

“I have worked with this group for four years, so I have had the chance to get to know them and their families to better understand their lives,” Fuerst said. 

“I pushed and supported and sometimes nagged my students to stay on top of things. ... I truly feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with these students and to play a small role in their lives.”

Cervantes said that she definitely recommends the AVID program to other students. “Especially as you get closer to high school and toward graduation, you really see the impact that it has.”


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or


Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here