January 29, 2024

Leesburg Students Ignite Their Futures During AVID College Tour

2.7 min read| Published On: January 29th, 2024|

By Cindy Peterson

Leesburg Students Ignite Their Futures During AVID College Tour

2.7 min read| Published On: January 29th, 2024|

A group of 35 high school students from Leesburg High School have recently returned from an East-coast college tour through the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program, a college prep initiative offered in Lake County schools. This year marks their third annual AVID tour.

The AVID program is designed to help students prepare for higher education. Dr. Monique Griffin-Gay, assistant principal at Leesburg High School and one of the coordinators of the program, expressed her enthusiasm for the program.

“We were able to visit many colleges and experience career explorations and opportunities, to see where people work in the industry and help the students get an idea of where they want to work or go to school,” she says.

This year’s tour took the AVID students on an educational journey up the coast, visiting colleges in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Their journey also included invaluable career explorations.

“We were able to visit the U.S. Capital, where a former Leesburg High student is working as an intern, and he was able to give us the tour,” Monique says. “Then we visited a high-profile photographer who works with celebrities and higher-ups like Barak Obama and Stevie Wonder. The kids were able to hear his story of how he got to where he is today.”

The AVID program is designed to prepare students for the challenges of higher education by building essential skills, starting as early as middle school. Students learn critical skills such as writing, study techniques, time management, and more. In high school, they focus on essay writing, completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and applying to colleges—a process that can be especially daunting for first-generation students without a strong support system at home.

But Leesburg High goes a step further and offers an AVID tour, focusing on juniors and seniors, to help students really see what the future can look like.

“Some of these students have never even traveled outside of Lake County,” Monique says. “This trip helps them experience the possibilities.”

Aerial Robinson, a senior at Leesburg High School, shared her perspective on the tour.

“This trip has opened my eyes to what schools have to offer,” she says. “Money might be a problem, but this showed me there are schools that have way more to offer than I expected, like Norfolk and Hampton Universities, and Shaw University.”

Christopher Ambroise, another senior at Leesburg High School, described his experiences during the tour.

“I enjoyed meeting new people and learning about experiences, especially from a famous photographer who took photos of famous people,” he says. “We saw a variety of public and private colleges, learned about their costs, and got to see the locations. It’s been an enlightening experience.”

Mr. Bryan Peay, an AVID instructor at Leesburg High School, emphasized the unique opportunities this tour provides students.

“These are opportunities for them at the next level,” he says. “They wouldn’t have this exposure otherwise. We visited the capital, spent a good hour and a half, and learned important lessons about networking and future success from a former LHS graduate who gave us the tour.”

In addition to college visits and career explorations, the AVID tour includes a special focus on writing and learning sessions. Chaperones choose topics they are passionate about, including financial stability, effective communication, and mindfulness. These sessions encourage students to actively engage, ask questions, and document their lessons, making the tour a holistic learning experience.

“There is intention in all that we do,” Monique says. “Our goal is to provide knowledge to the students so they can progress and know the steps to success after high school, whether it’s in a trade, the military, or college. We want them to be prepared and understand what it will take to achieve their goals.”

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About the Author: Cindy Peterson

Originally from the small town of Berryville, Arkansas, Cindy has become a multimedia specialist in journalism, photography, videography and video editing.

She has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Central Arkansas and is a correspondent for The Daily Commercial, LakeFront TV and Beacon College’s PBS talk show, “A World of Difference,” where she received an Anthem Award and Telly Award.

When she isn’t working, Cindy spends time with her husband, Ryan, and son, David, traveling and taking photos of landscapes and wildlife.

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