A 100% college acceptance rate and more than $5 million in scholarship offers are what the 13 seniors from Wheeler High School’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program have earned. Their teacher Rachel Lewis says it is a testament to the value of the AVID program and the investment the East Cobb Rotary Club made in 2017 to help launch the program at Wheeler.
One of the AVID seniors earned millions in scholarships and another more than $350,000 in scholarships. Two other AVID graduates totaled up $40,000 and $37,000 in scholarship offers. After graduating from Wheeler, the AVID students plan to major in sports medicine, political science, biology, forensic science, psychology, chemistry, international business, and more. One is set on being a pediatric surgeon, while another aims for law school.
Those Wheeler students detailed their future plans to the visitors from the East Cobb Rotary Club who recently visited the school to get an update on how the professional development program is impacting students at an increasing rate. The East Cobb Rotary Club serves as a partner with Wheeler to support the school’s AVID program, including donating more than $60,000 since the program started.
“[The program] has made college a reality for these 13 students. You are singlehandedly providing them with an opportunity they would not have otherwise had, and I thank you for that,” Ms. Lewis told the East Cobb Rotary visitors.
One of those students is Amblessed.
“We all migrated from Nigeria to the U.S. to chase the American dream. It’s a lot of pressure because it’s like, well, we traveled all this way, but we have to succeed. I was under a lot of stress,” explained the Wheeler senior.
That is when a classmate turned Amblessed on to the Wheeler’s AVID program and the support it offers.
“I applied, and I got in. It’s been the best thing I did because the teachers or the counselors, everybody, guides you and helps you, makes sure that you’re going on the right path,” added Amblessed, who has already received more than $4 million in college scholarship offers.
Like Amblessed, senior Ayomide was also new to the United States and Georgia and credited the Wheeler program for providing support during high school and preparing her for life after graduation.
“It really is like a family. I would say that they really helped me as a person. [Before the program,] I couldn’t say a word without stuttering. It’s really built my confidence. It’s giving me a family-like structure and people I can depend on and talk to without feeling unheard,” praised Ayomide.
According to Ayomide, the support she received at Wheeler helped her develop new organization and communication habits and the ability to talk in front of large groups or answer questions in a face-to-face interview.
“I’m really grateful for every single person and the [Wheeler] program and teaching staff, everyone and all the people that have supported us,” Ayomide said. “It’s been some of the greatest years of my life.”
Wheeler students see the impact of their time in the AVID program long before graduation day nears.
“AVID is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. From the tools we learned to the ways I apply them is what really matters most in and outside of our classroom. We stick together. AVID is family. We can always depend on each other. When I begin to give up and have no one to talk to, I get advice from my AVID family. They’re really my support system. Our AVID teachers go out of their way and go the extra mile to make sure it’s successful in and out of school. They are not your ordinary teachers, and it has given me a different perspective on school, and even in life [the program] makes me see things in a way that makes the impossible now possible,” said junior Ta’lor who was new to Georgia when [she] started school at Wheeler.
The AVID program has helped build Ta’lor up so she can hold her head high and use her new self-confidence to let others know about the impact the program has on students like herself.
The students have become ambassadors for the program, creating social media pages to help reach younger students and addressing community meetings. They want others to have the same opportunities and support they received in the Wheeler program.
The result? The program is growing. Students in middle school know about the program and are eager to join.
In 2017, there were two students in the Wheeler program. This year, the school supported about 90 students in AVID, and 67 rising freshmen have already applied to join the program next school year—a sign of the program’s continued growth.
“AVID strategies work for all students. So, we’re in the process of creating classes for our incoming freshmen that use the AVID strategies,” explained Wheeler Principal Paul Gillihan. “We’re going to incorporate some strategies, and we’re going to have some pre-added classes for students who did not make it into the program initially. We will try to get them in there the next year for their sophomore year.”