The Greenwich High School (GHS) Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Class of 2022 Graduation Celebration was held on Wednesday, June 22 in the GHS Student Center. A crowd of over 100 people were in attendance representing the 37 AVID graduates, family members, teachers, AVID SUCCESS mentors, and underclassmen.
Executive Director of the Greenwich Alliance for Education Julie Faryniarz shared, “AVID Graduation is always my favorite celebration of the year because AVID is so aligned with our mission to empower all students to achieve academic, personal, and professional success.”
AVID is a national college-readiness system designed to close the opportunity gap among diverse and underrepresented demographic groups and promote equity and access in education.
AVID was initially funded by a grant from the Alliance in 2008. Greenwich Public Schools (GPS) now run the program, although the Alliance continues to support students, teachers, and alumni through AVID SUCCESS, an initiative launched in 2020 to centralize and grow its AVID-related support activities.
AVID teachers, Missy Brown and Franny Bittman, along with GHS AVID Site Coordinator Mara Subach and GPS AVID District DirectorJudith Nedell, have spent months helping the AVID graduates craft college lists, write essays, submit the FAFSA, and analyze financial aid packages, which include scholarships and loans.
All of the students have been accepted to and plan to attend college in the fall.
Students will be attending: Emory University, Lehigh University, Connecticut College, George Washington University, Providence College, UCONN, Fordham University, and other local and state colleges.
AVID students often choose to stay close to home because state colleges are more affordable and they have ongoing family commitments, according to Faryniarz.
At the event, graduating senior, Sarah Borba, who is headed to UCONN Stamford, sang an a cappella version of “It’s the Climb.” Her performance was followed by several speakers, who echoed their appreciation of the Alliance’s longstanding commitment to GPS students.
“Beyond the additional hundreds of thousands of dollars they invested in programming and scholarships, they’ve also donated countless hours, brownies, pizza parties, initiated dozens of bank accounts, and matched many mentors,” said AVID 12 teacher Missy Brown. “Most importantly their partnership in the growth of the AVID program allowed for the 37 graduates here tonight to be here.”
Several speakers pointed out the many accomplishments of the graduates, including taking a total of 141 honors classes and 32 AP classes, despite facing unique obstacles.
AVID 12 teacher Frances Bittman recalled how students juggled jobs, academics, sports, and applying for college and scholarships over the past four years.
“College research, applications, and scholarships filled our free time, but we prevailed,” she said. “Covid, remote learning, hybrid learning, and quarantine complicated things, but we prevailed.”
“The most gratifying experience for me has been to watch each of you transform into the almost adults we have here tonight,” Bittman told the students gathered in the GHS Student Center. “I do know that you leave GHS smarter, more determined, and more mature than you entered here and that you will move the world as you enter into it.”
Ashley Sierra, who is headed to Fordham University, was placed in the AVID program as an eighth grader at Western Middle School.
“If I had chosen not to continue in AVID, I can firmly say I would not be where I am today,” she said. “To know that many of us in AVID wanted to make a difference for our families as first-generation students, pushed me to raise the bar and keep standards high.”
The graduating seniors praised the AVID teachers for creating a nurturing community and guiding them through GHS and college admissions, as well as the Alliance for providing the necessary resources and connections to face past and future challenges.
“Through your willingness to help us out, we’ve been able to find internships, jobs, savings accounts with the Members Credit Union, scholarships— and some of the best people in the world,” said Matthew Fuentes, who will attend Connecticut College in the fall.
“Donors have a tremendous opportunity to directly help students with college expenses by funding the match in the Educate and Prosper College Savings Accounts,” explained Faryniarz. “The Alliance matches 25 cents on the dollar saved up to $2,000 by graduation and in order to receive the match the students have worked and saved.”
Since the first AVID class graduated in 2013, more than 250 students have completed the program, and the Alliance has provided $648,000 in scholarships. In addition, Faryniarz announced that each student will receive $250 from the Alliance to use for college books and a box of dorm supplies generously donated by OCM. The 37 AVID SUCCESS graduates also received significant merit scholarships and grants with a number of students receiving nearly full scholarships.
The Alliance’s work does not end when the AVID graduates begin college in the fall.
“As Alumni, you can participate in team-building adventure activities, gain experience with our Jobs & Professional Tools programming and of course, always get help with Good Money Habits budgeting and financial planning,” said Faryniarz. “When you reach your sophomore year in college you can apply to the AVID SUCCESS Scholarship Fund to help pay tuition bills.”
About the Greenwich Alliance for Education
The Greenwich Alliance for Education was founded in 2006 as a partner with the Greenwich Public Schools, to drive innovation, opportunity, and access in learning to empower all students to achieve academic, personal, and professional success.