When Ashley Solis first came to Newberg High School, she admits to being pretty shy.
But Solis was a member of the high school's first cohort of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students and two years later, she feels like a different person.
"I've made more friends here," Solis said. "I've become more confident and more open and even funnier."
She credits AVID for helping her to make those steps as a freshman, but said the biggest change came last year as a sophomore. The program's emphasis on preparing for and attending college prompted her to seek out extracurricular activities and then she learned that they actually help most students improve academically.
"I went from a C student to an A student," Solis said. "I'm not kidding. It's really crazy."
Solis thought that with less time each day for schoolwork, joining the dance team and MEChA student group, as well as volunteering at the cultural center, would have a negative effect. But armed with organizing skills and planning tools from AVID, she became more focused.
"My grades depended on being organized," Solis said. "Coming home late from practice and knowing that I have to get my stuff done, it puts pressure on myself to do well."
NHS math teacher and AVID coordinator Angie Stutzman said that most of students in Solis' cohort have experienced similar successes, especially when it comes to preparing for their futures.
"This year, almost all of them have decided what career they want," Stutzman said. "Almost all of them have decided on at least two or three colleges they're interested in going to. Most of them are involved in AP classes and are aware of things that college applications are looking for, like volunteer hours and extracurriculars, so they're trying to get into sports and clubs. It's pretty cool."
Stutzman noted that she had a very different experience with the same students when they were freshmen and new to AVID.
"It was like pulling them through the mud, like getting them to change how they are taking notes and organize," Stutzman said. "It felt like, 'I don't know if this works.' Then they came back sophomore year and they had their binders organized and their Cornell Notes out and it was like, 'Oh! They did listen.'"
Perhaps the best part is that with AVID programs up and running at both middle schools, that is likely to be a problem of the past because most incoming freshmen from now on will have already been in the program for two or three years when they arrive at NHS.
Solis' classmate Jessica Campuzano said that even though they were new to AVID, it still helped them make the transition to high school a bit easier because it encourages building collaborative relationships with members of their cohort, which in turn provided a built-in group of friends.
"Knowing I can trust those people and speak up, it's definitely made me more of a social person than I was before," Campuzano said.
Incoming freshmen Mahealani Pursel and Alina Ramirez both took part in AVID at Chehalem Valley Middle School. They anticipate it being even more helpful for them because some of those relationships are already established.
"I like that I know everyone," Pursel said. "Last year, I could pretty much tell you their full name and everything about them."