Carmen Gelman and Mary Catherine Swanson with two of Swanson's former students

Carmen Gelman and Mary Catherine Swanson with two of Swanson’s former students

Several of us on the Epic School Partnerships team just returned from the AVID National Conference in San Diego where we not only had an opportunity to learn from some great educational leaders but had a chance to meet up with old friends, explore new ideas, and collaborate with new folks. Both our founder Dr. David Conley and our executive director Matt Coleman had the chance to present on how we as educators can better support students to be successful after high school. Here are a few highlights from the conference that inspired me:

  • This year’s conference started out with a keynote by Mary Catherine Swanson, the teacher that started AVID. She shared the story of how AVID began. During the 1980s, educators in San Diego decided to begin bussing kids out of poor schools and integrating them into more affluent schools with the hope of reducing the achievement gap. While many staff at her school commented on having to deal with “those kids” who they believe would ruin the school, Mary Swanson believed all of her students had the courage and ability to succeed and she challenged the negative perceptions others had of them. Years later her ideas and commitment to “those students” has grown into a movement that equips nearly a million students across the US. She is an inspiration and a model for us all, a reminder that regardless of the situation one person can make a difference and have an impact.
  • Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at New York University, also keynoted at the conference. He’s a leading expert in the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends. He reminded us how important it is for students to feel engaged and connected to what they are learning. I was so inspired by him that I followed him into his next session so that I could hear more.
  • One workshop particularly resonated with me on providing resources for undocumented students during high school, in college, and after college. As both a juvenile justice counselor and a school administrator, I have met many students who have lived in the United States since they were infants and were very focused on going to college only to watch their dreams crushed by the realization that the barriers to their educational goals are much greater for students who are not legal citizens.
  • In Matt Coleman’s session, it was fun to be able to connect in person with many of our partners up and down the west coast including Portland and Beaverton educators from Oregon, Valley High School leadership from Santa Ana, California and Spokane Public Schools from Washington as well as schools all across the country. Matt walked through the School Success Model – a framework Epic School Partnerships uses with schools to identify their current state and to inform their strategic direction as they set goals for the future. He connected this to how powerful it can be when AVID is successfully implemented school wide so students are supported in multiple settings instead of only one classroom. During the sessions, Matt asked participants to show by a raise of hands those that had a clear understanding in their building about what it means to be college and career ready and no one raised their hand. It hit home that as educators we have more work to do to make sure we all have a better understanding of what students need to be successful and a clearer vision that articulates what values, beliefs, and theoretical frameworks guide our decisions as we prepare our kids (see the attached presentation for more information on Matt’s session).
AVID_National_Conference_2015.pdf (1260 downloads)