A new college readiness program will launch this fall at Central and Logan high schools, thanks to the largest gift the La Crosse Public Education Foundation has ever given the La Crosse School District.
The foundation will provide nearly $200,000 to the district over a three-year period to implement a program called AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.
“This is a game-changer for our children, our schools and our community,” said David Stoeffler, the foundation’s executive director. “Our investment today is a down payment to help future generations in La Crosse have an equal opportunity at the American dream.”
The gift is made possible through the largest grant the foundation has ever received: a three-year, $125,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation of St. Paul, Minn. The La Crosse Community Foundation will also contribute $30,000 to the AVID program.
The La Crosse Public Education Foundation will cover AVID’s incremental startup costs, which include intensive training for district staff.
At the end of three years, the district will fund the program’s ongoing costs as part of its normal budget.
AVID is designed to benefit traditionally underserved students — minorities, those struggling with poverty and first-generation college students — and those who fall “in the academic middle.”
Plans to implement a college readiness program have been in the works for several years, Superintendent Randy Nelson said, but work began on the AVID certification and grant paperwork in the past several months.
The program is built around a scholarly foundation that will teach reading, writing and note-taking skills and emphasize collaboration and leadership through small-group discussion, Socratic seminars and metacognition — a high-level thinking technique that helps students identify areas of confusion.
Students are also required to take one honors class or one advanced placement class.
“AVID is all about opportunity, access and support,” Central Principal Jeff Fleig said.
A recent national study showed that 93 percent of AVID program seniors completed college entrance requirements and 76 percent had been accepted at a four-year college. Of those who started their postsecondary education, 89 percent were still enrolled two years later.
Fleig has big expectations for program results in La Crosse.
“I would be shocked if we didn’t have 95 percent of AVID students going on to a four-year college,” he said.
AVID’s inaugural class is made up of 58 freshmen and sophomores from each high school, all of whom were chosen after an application and interview process. Fleig said he hopes to see that number grow to around 150 at each school.
“The kids are excited,” he said. “These are students who really want to change their academic trajectories.”