Lehigh Acres Middle School has recently gained national recognition as being an Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, school.
LAMS has been an AVID school for several years now. However, it was named an AVID National Demonstration School last month, meaning the program has met the criteria for national recognition.
"It instills pride and self-confidence in the students that goals are reachable if they work hard to achieve them," Richard Keast, an AVID Site Team member at the school, said. "It also provides an opportunity to meet additional friends who share their common goal."
AVID schools are exemplary models of the AVID College Readiness System. According to school officials, Lehigh Middle is the only AVID National Demonstration Middle School in all of South Florida, serving as a training site for schools from all over the country.
"It's an amazing accomplishment because we've had AVID for nine years and it's been a journey," Debbie Wright Prashad, AVID coordinator at LAMS, said. "We're continuing to improve, and not only for the students, but for the parents too. Everything that's in place goes for the community."
To be an AVID school means that the school has its model of teaching in excellence and learning for all students. The school becomes a training site for teachers all across the country to come and learn best practices to ensure all students are ready for college.
AVID schools must undergo precise validation processes, and the learning environment is required to be capable every few years to guarantee high levels of achievement. AVID also serves as a tutoring program, where students provide help to other students who may be struggling academically.
At Lehigh Middle, being an AVID school allows people to observe its approaches to college readiness, such as proof of student achievement school-wide, strong leadership to college readiness for all students, and a team of committed AVID trained educators.
Monica Walker is an AVID teacher leader at Lehigh Middle.
"The biggest complaint colleges have is that students don't really want to think for themselves and they want things handed to them," she said. "But here, all teachers are getting our students accustomed to asking more questions, so when they go into college, they ask those questions and have that hunger for learning."
Principal Neketa Watson was pleased to announce the achievement. As the head of a training site, she is contacted by other principals who want to observe various classes. Their goal is to observe how Lehigh Middle keeps its students engaged and how critical thinking in its classes is encouraged.
Watson encouraged the accomplishment of Lehigh Middle becoming an AVID school.
The school administration attended the AVID Summer Institute, which is a weeklong training site for teachers to learn how to engage their students in classrooms. The administration then trained the teachers who did not attend the institute to ensure every teacher at the school was prepared.
"I put systems in place so that every teacher is prepared to help students become college ready," she said. "That has changed the culture here. We're very excited and proud."
"You know, we haven't always been the most selected school," Watson added. "But now this is national recognition for the school and the community."
Since Watson became principal, the school has improved in various ways. She has helped advance teaching and expand learning at the school to help the learning environment excel.
Teachers have college posters and college walls surrounding their classrooms, so not only do students understand college curriculum and methods, they also feel as though they are in a college environment.
"I think she started from the inside out," Walker said of Watson. "She started with teachers assuring them of the support of holding students accountable for being in their classrooms. Then, she provided the coaching for the teachers so that they could improve their teaching."