Bound for the Future: A Look into the BBHS AVID Program

Only a few short years ago, Joel Orellana was sitting in his eighth-grade class at Community Middle School hearing from high school students about an exciting college-readiness program offered at Bound Brook High School. Fast forward to today, as a sophomore, he’s part of the program and already gaining the skills he’ll need to be successful in the future. 

The program, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determinant) is a national initiative that promotes college and career readiness throughout a student’s time at Bound Brook High School. Through a variety of educational strategies, it is designed to help students succeed as they prepare for their post-secondary education and future careers. BBHS reached its fifth AVID cohort in the 2023-24 school year with 25 students. 

Principal Edward Smith learned about the AVID program from his years as a teacher, which aligned to his vision of the teaching and learning process. As Principal, through his vision and careful planning, Mr. Smith felt strongly that implementation of AVID would impact positive change at BBHS, which came to fruition in the Fall 2019 for the first cohort. 

“We are extremely proud of our AVID program here at Bound Brook High School and how much it has grown since we initiated it,” said Mr. Smith. “With all the learning tools it has provided our students and staff, it is one of the reasons our students continue to succeed, such as increasing the district’s 4-year college acceptance from 28% to 45% last year and a total of $3.5 million dollars in student scholarships.” 

For Joel, the program has been even better than he realized when he first heard about it from Bound Brook’s Director of Data, Planning, Research, & Evaluation William Ross.  

“In that presentation, Mr. Ross invited students who were already involved in the AVID program at that time,” said Joel. “They spoke to us about their experiences, and it was really interesting. When it was my time to enter the program, it was even better than everything they told us about.” 

A key component of AVID is professional development, with more than 25,000 educators receiving training nationally each year. Bound Brook’s AVID elective teachers receive special training in Baltimore, while all BBHS teachers are trained in WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading) to use as strategies in their classes. 

“Our AVID elective teachers focus on WICOR – Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading,” said Assistant Principal Christine Larson. “These are the different skills that they learn that we also carry over to all the teachers in the building. We’re considered school-wide AVID because we have all our teachers using the WICOR strategies.” 

While these instructional practices are applied schoolwide, BBHS utilizes unique AVID elective classes that offer an additional layer of support for students at each grade level. These classes equip students with essential skills, such as note-taking, self-advocacy, organization, study habits, and time management.  

Jenna Calo and Sam Haber, who are both BBHS AVID elective teachers, explain the strong impact that these trainings have on their AVID curriculum. This includes the unique tutorial-styled lessons that make up a large part of the elective.  

“We did the elective training and that focused on tutorials,” said Calo. “These trainings really broke down the process.” 

Within these tutorials, Haber lauds the improvement that he sees in his students from the beginning of a school year to the end.  

“In the beginning of the year, a lot of students would write tutorial questions that were very broad, like ‘How can I stop procrastinating?’ or ‘How can I do better?’” he explained. “We needed to narrow that down so we started to create questions where they took out an old test or essay, picked a question or area that they messed up on, and presented it to their peers to break down what messed it up and how they could improve on it.” 

Students inside an AVID elective classroom get the chance to build skills through activities such as Socratic Seminars, tutorials, study groups, peer tutoring, and more.  

In addition, students attend field trips to collaborate outside of the classroom. Seniors in the AVID program recently traveled to Princeton University where they teamed up in a scavenger hunt across campus to answer trivia and take photo challenges with each other.  

“Students care about their grades, and they want to do well in their academics,” said Calo. “If they’re missing assignments, they advocate for themselves…they’re breaking out of their shell! They have this dream or goal, like having a certain career or going to a specific college, and I feel like AVID is encouraging them to advocate for themselves and do whatever it takes to get there.”  

AVID students receive additional preparation to enroll in challenging Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses with the support from their teachers and peers to handle the rigorous coursework. A main goal is to promote these skills and activities that can motivate every student to make their college dreams into a reality. 

Beatriz Arruda, a BBHS sophomore, can attest to the positive impact that the AVID program has had on her and her future.  

“To me, AVID is really special because it made me realize what I wanted to do for my future,” she said. “It also made me realize how school operates and how life actually is outside of school, like what happens when you get older. I made a lot of friends along the way and it’s nice to talk with them during class and connect with them during the tutorial of the program or outside of school when we go on trips. It’s a really nice experience overall.”