It was Spring 2016 when Independence High School Principal Mario Sherrell approached Julie Dunham, IHS Social Studies instructor, about a new program called AVID. "AVID stands for Advanced Via Individual Determination. I had only heard of the initiative, but had no working knowledge of what it consisted of," said Dunham. 

Her interest was sparked by the fact the program was made for "middle" kids, the kids with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.0 to 3.5. "In our schools we have several ways to help 'low' GPA kids and the 'high' GPA kids but nothing for those kids in the 'middle' GPA range. This program could help them become successful in advanced classes if taught some skills and given the support to help them achieve more than they had previously," said Dunham. 

At IHS, AVID has a coordinator who is consistently looking at student grades, activities, and interaction in all classes. It provides AVID elective courses that teach organization, commitment and job exploration.

The course provides tutoring two days a week involving volunteers, one paid and one administration. "I volunteer every other week during my designated AVID time," said Dunham. 

The Site Team consists of a representative from the four core departments, AVID elective teacher, AVID coordinator, AVID counselor and administrative support. The team consists of Gina McLenon, Julie Dunham, Sam Carnes, Max Bradbury, Joyce Aiello, Halle Connors, Spencer Weaver, Mario Sherrell, Carmen Hewitt, and Kellie Puderbaugh. 

"We meet monthly to maintain the validity of the implementation," said Dunham. The team has attended a summer institute to train for implementation of AVID and will return to Dallas, Texas this summer for a second year and further training. 

To be accepted into the AVID course, students have to apply to be a part of AVID and complete an interview, statement of commitment and enroll in the AVID elective class. "We also take two field trips to area colleges and universities. This year we went Pittsburg State University in November and Wichita State University in March," said Dunham.

Students have the option to opt out of the program and if they choose to remain in the program they are automatically enrolled for the next year. 

"After our first year of AVID, the team knows what we want to change and what needs to stay the same. For the second year, GIna McLenon will teach both AVID 9 and AVID 10 classes and we are now busy trying to find tutors for the elective class," said Dunham. 

Anyone interested in being an AVID tutor, contact Puderbaugh at (620) 332-1800.