Over the last year and a half, Walla Walla High School has welcomed me into their dynamic community. Through my role as a tutor with the school’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, I’ve developed mentoring relationships with three classes of bright, cheeky, driven high school students. This semester, thanks to the Spring Whitman Internship Grant, I have the chance to help the entire district’s AVID program continue into the future by creating a grant-research/writing position.
Before I began this internship, grant-writing responsibilities fell to various employees across the district. Therefore, a lot of my internship so far has been drawing parameters and plans for the position: compiling grants for which Walla Walla Public Schools (WWPS) might qualify, making contacts with local organizations and polling everyone involved with AVID to see what projects we want to fund and where the highest needs lay. Now that I’ve established a foundation, I can submit letters and work on applications, though many aren’t due until autumn. Simply put, one of my top priorities has been preparing all the necessary information so that this position will be sustainable.
In my recent meetings with Wa-Hi AVID teachers, as well as the principal of Pioneer Middle School, we identified that currently the greatest funding needs for WWPS AVID are basic supplies, field trips and tutors. Organization, one of AVID’s main components, requires that students have binders and highlighters and pens and pencil pouches and other basic supplies—but not all students can afford these items. Furthermore, AVID is a college-readiness program, and as such it exposes its students to higher education options starting in middle school. Though Walla Walla is fortunate to have three institutions within bussing distance, once AVID students reach high school they deserve the chance to see schools on the other side of Washington state, too. Many of these students have never been outside of Walla Walla, so going even two hours north or west exposes them to a different environment. Finally, district AVID certification requires that each class have older, usually collegiate, tutors. These tutors work with the students in small groups, grade binders, and facilitate weekly tutorials, among other responsibilities. But from my experience, the most important aspect of the tutor-student relationship is the mentoring component, which is why it is vital that all AVID students have access to tutors.
However, right now the WWPS AVID program is struggling to find funding for each of these three essential areas. With my position, I am fighting to secure support for aspects without which AVID cannot function in years to come. My position is unique because I work in the classrooms for three hours each morning, in the middle of which I take an extra hour to further my progress for the internship. This means that every day I work with students who remind me why I wished to start this internship in the first place. I am so lucky that the Student Engagement Center and Whitman Internship Grant enable to do work that is both personally meaningful and necessary.