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Stephanie's Heroes: Scholars and AVID

May 23, 2011

The Scholars and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) programs are helping Charlottesville High School students meet their goals both inside and outside the classroom.

"It's a program designed to help kids who have a lot of potential who may not have the necessary resources to get to college. It prepares them for college and helps them get into good colleges,” said AVID instructor and Jeff Smith.

Smith, also a program coordinator, says one of his goals is to encourage students to step up and take honors and/or AP level classes. And it's working. Two seniors shared their stories at a recent Charlottesville City School Board meeting.

Omar Winstead told the audience he never would have made it without the program.

“It's really been a lifesaver. Even this year there have been times where finances [were rough]. I went for three months without food, without lights and for the first time in my life I was failing classes. I didn't know what to do,” he told them.

Smith stepped in to help. He along with other program leaders helped Winstead get back on track in his academic and personal lives. Now, the senior will enroll at Harvard in the fall.

And the success doesn't end there. Champrea Frye has been in the program for several years. While instructors have encouraged her in her personal life, she says the biggest boost has been in academics.

“In 9th grade I refused to take any honors classes besides math, which was a subject I excelled in. I always had Mr. Smith and Ms. Webb telling me to go above and beyond, that they knew my capabilities,” said Frye, who will attend Virginia Commonwealth University.

Teachers and pupils agree the Scholars and AVID programs have given Charlottesville students exactly what they need to succeed.

“For the first time I feel like there's some stability, there's some control. I feel like I will be able to build the life that I always wanted for myself,” Winstead explained.

“Personally, in my life, it's made all the difference. I knew I had the capabilities and the potential, I just had to use the potential,” added Frye.

Both are off to college thanks to the hard work of Smith and his colleagues.

“That's what helps me get up in the morning is knowing that I really am making a difference. It's not always easy but the payoff is worth it,” said Smith.

Frye and Winstead are two of 34 Scholars and AVID graduates who will attend college this fall. That brings the total to more than 100 in the past five years.

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