As freshman students at the Round Rock ISD Early College High School (ECHS) prepare to step into their first college class in January, a foundation for success has been laid through a campus-wide college preparation initiative through the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

ECHS is the sole high school in Round Rock ISD to participate in AVID on a campus wide level. AVID is a global non-profit organization that operates with one guiding principle: hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support and they will rise to the challenge, according to the organization.

“AVID has been an integral part of building our campus culture at ECHS,” ECHS Principal Clarissa Rodriguez said. “Students and staff on campus strive to support each other and build a pathway to success in all aspects of life. AVID has helped build that support system and a family atmosphere for our students as they prepare to step into Austin Community College classrooms in January.”

Each AVID cohort consists of 15 students who meet for 90 minutes every other day. AVID curriculum aims to build skills in social and emotional situations, organization, academic tutoring and inquiry-based thinking. Each class begins with peer tutoring where students gather in four-person groups to collaborate and problem solve any issues with academic subjects. Simply giving answers is not allowed, instead students are tasked with asking leading questions to figure out the answer themselves.

“We need support because it’s difficult going into a college environment,” ECHS Freshman Marinna Gonzalez said. “Having the AVID community is like having a mentor push you and having somebody be your light in the best way. It’s a small class so we have a support system and know we can depend on each other.”

ECHS students will enter their first college class in January, leaving high school teachers behind to enter a classroom with a professor and adult students. While the academics is essential to success in college, the AVID cohorts have placed a focus on expectations of a college student, including behavior, to ensure students are confident walking into an ACC classroom, said Erika Elizondo, ECHS biology and AVID teacher.

“Our AVID class has a real family feel, we’re in this together,” Elizondo said. “The walls they’ve built up all their lives have to be broken down if they want to be successful. I tell my students, ‘you have to be vulnerable around each other because we’re building each other back up.’ We’re building each other into the type of people who are going to make a difference in society, not just walk through and take.”