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September 20th, 2020

viri barraza rivas school board presentationViri Barraza-Rivas speaks to the USD 480 school board Monday evening in defense of Liberal High School’s AVID program. The decision to remove AVID from the curriculum has sparked a lot of discussion within the community for the past several weeks. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Liberal High School AVID program continues to have much support and Monday evening, more were on hand to express that support to the USD 480 school board. 

First to speak about the program was Shawn Riggs. 

“AVID started 13 years ago with only one class and in those 13 years, AVID students, parents and teachers – non-AVID teachers – were AVID trained and they helped all students at LHS,” Riggs said. “From that one class, it spread to the other schools in the district. In those 13 years, AVID students have received thousands of dollars in scholarships, which wouldn’t have happened without AVID. Many of those students have been able to more than attain their educational goals, some of whom you saw at the last meeting. Both Eisenhower Middle School and Seymour Rogers Middle School have elected to keep AVID because AVID helps keep those best practices in teaching. What I would like to add is a personal comment of is if AVID is the best horse you have in the stable, why do you want to put it down? It’s performing, it’s doing very well, and it’s for all students. At Liberal High School, they’re going to replace it with something like AVID, but it’s not AVID. My dad never got a college education, but he always said ‘Always buy the best you can and you’ll always be happy.’ So why do they want to replace AVID with something like AVID? If it’s about money, we can find it. It is for the students. Throughout the past 13 years with AVID, we’ve had generational students come up through the ranks and say they want to be like their older sibling who was in AVID. But now we’re telling them they won’t have that opportunity. We didn’t create a generation of students looking for a handout, that’s not what AVID is, it’s about the best practices that allow students to achieve their best. Removing AVID from LHS would be a travesty, it won’t do anyone any good.”

 Silvia Pando was next to speak to the board. 

“AVID was a brand new program when my children joined and since there were rather low numbers at that time, we decided to enroll my children in AVID,” Pando said. “I think it would be a big mistake to get rid of AVID. I’m worried about the future of Liberal students coming through LHS and their education. From what I hear, AVID’s basically the only good thing going on at LHS, so it would be a tragedy to get rid of it. It’s not a handout, every student works for what they get, which I remember from when my own children were part of it. And my children all graduated from high school, some of them with honors and they all played sports and participated in extracurriculars and all of those things. I think it would be very, very sad to lose AVID for the future of Liberal.”

Up next to speak to the board was Viri Barraza-Rivas. 

“Advancement Via Individual Determination, also known as AVID, is a college readiness program anyone can apply for, but only a select few are chosen,” Barraza-Rivas. “I understand what LHS is wanting to do, they’re wanting to make AVID school-wide and be available for all students, and to a point, I agree you can’t have AVID without it being school-wide. However, all teachers use AVID strategies with their students and every student has the chance to get that extra push and extra help in order to be successful. By getting rid of AVID, only those who are privileged and talented will get scholarships, and that’s a very small group. You would think if you worked hard, you’ll be rewarded – a hardworking student has the right to apply for those same scholarships. AVID has been working for 13 years and I respect that there are people who believe AVID needs to go, and they are entitled to that opinion. But you can’t sit there and not listen to these students and teachers and parents who are here to fight for it to remain at LHS. If AVID does end up going away, it needs to be done gradually instead of just being tossed out with no warning whatsoever. From an outside point of view, it might be difficult to understand what this program is and what it does, but it’s not until you see it in action that you truly get its full scope. Every student deserves the opportunity given for success thanks to this program, please don’t take it away.”

Last to speak to the board was Cliff Lahita. 

“AVID is designed to provide opportunities for first-generation college students. I want you to imagine, if you can, what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone like that,” Lahita said. “I don’t have to imagine that, I know what it’s like because that’s the path I took and it was arduous, but it is worth it. AVID teachers are teaching organizational skills as well as study skills and presentation skills to our students, all of which are important skills whether you’re in business or continuing your education. They’re necessary for everyone to achieve as much as they can. AVID also allows students to explore their opportunities familiar and unfamiliar. By exposing students to AVID and the opportunities associated with it, we broaden their opportunities and broaden their vision. AVID is tailor-made for the student body of USD 480, which has a sizable amount of first-generation college students and a sizable about of students who have academic talent but also some hindrances in life that may prevent them from fully reaching those opportunities. AVID also serves students who are right there in the middle, there’s no other program that does this. AVID strategies also benefit students 100 percent of the time when used properly, it’s a collection of the best practices for teachers and students as established. AVID also has a proven record of success from all angles and it’s been proven AVID students succeed. Given all these facts, why discontinue AVID? There’s no real reason to do so and we will find a way to keep it going.”

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