High school addresses education gap with college readiness program

Rikards High School takes part in a college readiness system called AVID.
Photo Submitted by Constance Smith.

A local public school on the South Side of Tallahassee, James S. Rickards High School, is focused on preparing their students for college.

Rickards takes part in Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college readiness system. The goal of the program is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to excel in college.

Earl Hankerson, the AVID coordinator at Rickards, said the focus of the program is on “middle range students.” He also noted the program addresses students who are at risk of being overlooked.

“Often times there are program for students who are at the very top, and at the bottom,” Hankerson said. “In those cases, the students who are in the middle, your B and C students, get left out.”

Hankerson not only teaches the classes, but he also brings in guest speakers such as local leaders and business owners, to speak to the students.

The program pushes students to learn by using research based methods. This instruction is designed to assist students in the transition from high school to college.

The AVID program at Rickards has four levels. Students start their freshman year at level one, and end the program at level four, as seniors. The four levels are broken into steps over the next four years as each level teaches the students something they did not learn in the previous level.

Hankerson monitors the students all four years to make sure they are on the collegiate track. The end goal is to not only have helped students succeed in high school, but to have set them up for success in college.

Jazmine Varnado, a social work major, had the opportunity to take part in the AVID program when she attended Rickards. She said she still uses some of the skills she learned. Varnado, now a tutor, detailed how effective the program is firsthand.

“The AVID program helped me make my decision of which school I wanted to attend for college,” Varnado said. “They showed us how to apply, and took us on college tours. Without AVID, I honestly wouldn’t have attended any college tours at all.” 

Students in the AVID program can expect to learn new reading tips, writing skills, time management skills, study habits and financial tips. They will also learn about different colleges among other things. Volunteers mentor students each week as well.

Simone Symonette is a biology pre-med major and tutor for the AVID program. She believes the program helps to ensure each student will be prepared for the rigor of college coursework.

“The AVID program is very beneficial to high school students because it prepares students for college early,” Symonette said.

Although AVID is a class, it is taken in place of an elective. The program is open to all students, and they are encouraged to take part in the program. Many students who successfully completed the program were accepted into colleges across the nation.
Any information regarding the AVID program, or becoming an AVID mentor, can be found on www.leoncountyschools.net.