Mary Catherine Swanson: The Chalkboard Champion who Originated AVID

img_lead_mcswanson[1]Many educators around the country are very familiar with AVID, a program designed to show minority and other under-represented students how they can succeed in a college environment. The acronym, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, truly measures up to its hype.
The program was originated in 1980 by chalkboard champion Mary Catherine Swanson, who was an English teacher at Clairemont High School in San Diego, Southern California. At the time, her school, which had a predominately white student population, was preparing a slate of remedial courses to serve an influx of minority students in response to court-ordered integration. But Swanson insisted that with appropriate academic tools and support, minority and other under-represented students could thrive in a rigorous academic atmosphere, and she set about establishing a program that would prove her point. The AVID program she developed offers strategies for note-taking and test-taking, peer mentoring, tutoring, and cultural field trips. Her efforts have positively affected the lives of over 400,000 students since the program’s inauguration.
Since 1980, statistics have shown the overwhelming success of the program. Those statistics show that of those students enrolled in AVID, 95% go on to enroll in a four-year college, and 85% of them graduate. The program is so highly successful that it has been instituted in 4,500 high schools in 45 states and 16 countries around the world.
Mary Catherine Swanson, who refused to dummy-down a rigorous academic program and insisted her students were capable, is truly a chalkboard champion.