Central High School senior Sally Manninger thought her family had college all figured out.
Her older sister had always gotten good grades and stayed out of trouble, so it was a big surprise she dropped out of school almost as soon as she started. Manninger didn’t want that to happen in her case, so she joined the La Crosse School District’s AVID program three years ago as a sophomore and on Friday was one of the 50 or so students who celebrated being the inaugural graduates of the program.
“It is crazy to think about,” she said of how fast graduation is approaching. “You don’t realize you are a graduate until you really are.”
The AVID program — Advancement Via Individual Determination — helps at-risk students develop the learning skills and confidence they need to succeed at a college or university. To be accepted into the program, students need to have both college potential and a commitment to attend a college or university after graduation.
Students in the program take an elective class in which they learn the skills needed to be successful in college but might not have learned on their own. Students practice note-taking strategies, organizational skills and higher-level thinking. The program also builds a sense of community among AVID students.
The AVID program was the brainchild of former Central Principal Jeff Fleig, who worked with the district and the La Crosse Public Education Foundation to raise the funding needed to sponsor the program. Now a principal in the Glendale-River Hills School District, Fleig came back for the graduation ceremony on Friday to congratulate the students on their hard work and perseverance. He told them to be proud of all that they had accomplished and to be confident as they continue on to bigger challenges in college and beyond.
“Godspeed to all of you,” he said. “I wish you all the best.”
Manninger said the study skills she learned were a big help in preparing her to attend college at St. Olaf College in Minnesota next fall. The program also helped prepare first-generation students like herself fill in some knowledge gaps, such as how to communicate with professors and fill out a financial aid application.
She said she hopes to study psychology and continue on to graduate school and in neuroscience. She said she is nervous to be so far away from home and family, but AVID has given her the confidence to be successful.
“I didn’t know how to do anything until AVID came along,” she said. “It opens up ways you can look at what you are learning.”