Ceremony celebrates 84 AVID seniors

Published on Tuesday, 6 May 2014 23:24 - Written by BETTY WATERS blw@tylerpaper.com

Before Judy Rogers became involved in Tyler ISD’s Advancement Via Individual Determination Program, she said, “My grades were bad and my attitude was far from perfect.”

But Monday during an AVID Program dinner at Harvey Convention Center celebrating 84 graduating AVID seniors from John Tyler and Robert E. Lee high schools, Miss Rogers said, “I have changed” in her five years in the program.

She credited the program with her becoming more academically focused, not as shy as she had been and “more confident than I ever thought possible.” 

The John Tyler High School graduating senior plans to attend Tyler Junior College, transfer to Stephen F. Austin State University and her dream is to become a certified athletic trainer.

The AVID program, begun in San Diego in 1980, impacts more than 700,000 students in more than 4,800 schools and 41 postsecondary institutions to rise above obstacles they face to achieve academic success by preparing them for college readiness, according to its web site. 

Miss Rogers said at first she was confused but a teacher in the AVID program was a mentor who pushed students and helped them see that they could do anything. “She never gave up on us,” Miss Rogers said, “even when we made mistakes.” 

She said she learned “that even though obstacles are hard to overcome at first, if I pursue and keep trying, I can (overcome) anything in my way.”

She took pre-advanced placement and advanced courses in high school and joined many student organizations, such as the National Honor Society.

Miss Rogers said many people assumed that she would end up a teen mom like her mother and a dropout like her father.

“But because I have already come this far, I have not become a statistic as many people predicted,” Miss Rogers said.

“I have learned many life lessons,” she said, including lifelong study habits and good conduct and to have the utmost respect for the unknown. 

“AVID has taught me that anything is possible even though it may seem impossible at first,” Miss Rogers said.  

“This is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. AVID helped me see I can go to the college of my choice and pursue my dream career.”

Calling AVID “an amazing program,” Miss Rogers said it afforded her the opportunity to attend college and she has made lifelong friendships.

“My AVID family has helped me overcome many problems, educational and personal,” Miss Rogers said. “While in AVID, I have overcome many obstacles in my life.”

One was when she and her mother almost did not have a place to live during the time her parents divorced, Miss Rogers said.

“My AVID family helped me, and I always had someone to talk to,” she added.

Another obstacle was when her younger sister had surgery.

“I was so worried but they (AVID staff) helped me stay positive,” Miss Rogers said, and her sister made a full recovery.

Miss Rogers thanked “my AVID family,” teachers past and present, classmates and others. “They helped me overcome hindrances and appreciate what I have instead of what I didn’t have,” she said, also thanking her family members and saying they are her rock in times of struggle. 

Another speaker, Marco Duque, is graduating from Robert E. Lee High School after seven years in the AVID program. He plans to attend TJC, The University of Texas at Tyler and then medical school. 

“If it was not for AVID, I would not know half of things that I know right now,” Duque said, saying he has seen change in the past six years when he looked in the mirror, not just in appearance but in the way he thinks mentally.

“I personally feel honored to be a part of the AVID family in Tyler ISD,” Duque said.

Students in the program share a close bond and shared dreams, he said.

“We learned where and how to apply for college, where to search for scholarships, how to stay organized and to expect the unexpected,” Duque said.

“Not only did we share dreams, but we also shared struggles,” he said, saying they became stronger and grew closer each day.

The AVID program enriched and gave color and meaning to life while changing the lives of students, Duque said.

“It gave me courage to push myself beyond my limits,” he added. “It opened a different pathway for me to travel, to excel,” Duque said, thanking teachers, administrators and his family.

He recalled moving to the U.S. and said he has the chance to be the first in his family to go to college and have a better life.

AVID gave him hope and changed his future, Duque said. 

During the celebration, John Merrill, a State Farm Insurance agent, presented a $15,000 Good Neighbor Citizenship grant to the AVID program to be used for a teen driver safety emphasis in the 2014-2015 school year. 

According to a news release, the grant funds will be used to support teen driver safety initiatives that educate students and the community on the dangers of distracted driving, such as cellphone use, number of passengers in a vehicle and vehicle maintenance.