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College Prep Program Expands in St. Louis Schools

Tim Lloyd
St. Louis Public Radio

A program designed to push poor and minority students toward high school graduation and college and career readiness will expand in the St. Louis Public Schools.

Fueled by a $300,000 grant from AT&T, the Advancement Via Individual Determination  (AVID) program will go from serving around 300 students to 3,400 students at Cleveland Jr. Naval Academy, Gateway STEM High School, Roosevelt High School, Soldan International Studies High School, Sumner High School and Vashon High School. 

“It really helps build talent for the future,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.  “So businesses have the talent they need to compete in a global economy.” 

AVID, a 34-year-old nonprofit, trains teachers to bring research-based teaching strategies into the classroom. Students at participating schools can enroll in an AVID elective course that’s tailored for students in the academic middle who aren't earning stellar marks but are far from the bottom rung.  

“It's much like athletics: You see a person that has some athletic talent and then you refine that talent,” said Wendell Brown, the central division director for AVID. “That’s what we do in the classroom. We teach kids how to be good students and then we challenge them and allow them to challenge themselves to take those rigorous courses so they can be successful.”     

Staff recommend students for the AVID elective course, and the selection process is based on an interview.   Once in the course, students break up into small tutoring groups under the guidance of AVID tutors. While the courses are managed by AVID trained teachers, the tutors are often college students. 

“We want them to also be a role model for students,” Brown said of the tutors. 

Students in the elective are trained in the Cornell note-taking system to give them an academic edge. After the course, Brown said students are encouraged to take academically rigorous courses, whether advanced placement or college preparatory. 

“When they matriculate from our K-12 systems into college, they are ready for those college classes where they are expected to do those things routinely,” Brown said. 

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.