Avid Creator Speaks at Luncheon

by Staff

In today’s society, getting a high school diploma is no longersufficient, AVID program founder Mary Catherine Swanson said lastweek to a group of alumni and students.

“There is no way that today’s students are ever going to support a21st century family on 20th century labor skills,” she said.

Swanson spoke with 160 people at the annual San Diego State AlumniAssociation luncheon, held to honor five students receivingscholarships from the organization. Scholarships were given tofull-time students with grade-point average of 3.0 or higher fromthree award categories — first semester student, continuing studentand upper division student. The organization also looked for studentswho have contributed to SDSU and demonstrate a spirit of loyalty tothe university.

Swanson, a high school English teacher, began AVID — AdvancementVia Individual Determination — in 1980 as an effort to teach C-levelstudents the necessary skills to perform well in school and attendcollege.

The program began with 32 students in Clairemont High School,where Swanson taught. Of the 30 students who remained in the programthroughout high school, 28 attended four-year universities.

Today, the program serves more than 65,000 students in 21 statesand 14 countries. More than 92 percent of AVID students enroll incollege, a figure nearly one-third higher than the national average.Swanson is the only K-12 teacher to have ever founded a nationaleducation reform effort.

The students in the program learn note-taking and studying skills,get tutoring help and gain role models, while taking collegepreparatory courses. Swanson stresses that AVID is not a remedialprogram, but accelerates students with a rigorous curriculum, whilegiving them the support they need.

“A student can’t learn what he’s never taught,” Swanson said. “Alleducation depends on honoring the dignity of the learner.”

She said SDSU enrolls and graduates more AVID students than anyuniversity in the United States.

SDSU Alumni Association Vice President Joe Horiye was an originalmember of the program at Clairemont High School, Swanson said.

“For a person who probably saw more violence by the age of sixthan many will see in a lifetime, it opened a window of opportunityfor me that I never knew existed,” Horiye said.

Horiye personally asked Swanson to speak at the luncheon.

The Alumni Association gave $1,000 scholarships to five SDSUstudents at the luncheon. The recipients were journalism freshmanKristin Moyer, English sophomore Ashleigh Nowland, hospitality andtourism management senior and former AVID tutor Christina Ruiz,theater arts senior Anna Myers and communicative disorders graduatestudent Robyn Pullman.

Each recipient made a small speech. Moyer said she would tellincoming freshmen that SDSU would be an excellent decision resultingin four, or maybe more, of the best years of their lives.

“No matter where I am in the future, I will always be a part ofthe SDSU community,” Nowland tearfully said.

Pullman said creating a balance in her life between studying andbeing in organizations has been a crucial aspect of her collegeexperience.

Swanson has won many awards for her work with the AVID program,including being named “America’s Best Teacher” by Time magazine andCNN last fall.