First generation students are defined as the first in their family to attend college, and have been known to face challenges with the college application process. Without parents who have been through the college admissions process, they are the first to navigate through financial aid, college admissions, key coursework, and many other aspects such as scholarships, essays, etc. The demographics of first generation students in 2021 had 25% White and Asian- American, 41% African American, and 61% Latino (PNPI First Generations). Non-white students are more likely to be first generation than white students, with parents coming from different countries or speaking foreign languages.
In an effort to support and encourage students that are lacking parental guidance for the college admissions process, San Marin implemented the Advance Via Individual Determination (AVID) program in 2008. The AVID program provides extra assistance that benefits first generation students, including guests coming to assist with the application process, edit college essays, help work through financial aid, and apply for scholarships.
“AVID has allowed me to see what I want to accomplish in my life, and being with the same students for four years has prompted me to become a leader in class,” senior Giselle Galindo Martinez said. “With the focus this class places on college personal insight questions, AVID has inspired me to write about how immigration affected my perspective on education.”
AVID and English teacher Damon Uriarte is passionate about the program, as he feels that it creates a productive and welcoming environment for students that face similar challenging lifestyle situations.
“AVID is a four year program, but that last year is specifically designed to help them with filling out the application process,” Uriarte said. “We also teach them how to be successful in school altogether; this includes showing them how to keep a calendar, how to speak to teachers if they need support, and how to advocate for themselves.”
Many of Uriarte’s students feel they have benefited greatly from the AVID program because they are able to relate to their peers in an environment that is solely focused on them achieving success.
“One thing people have to consider with first generation kids is that our parents generally do not speak English so I have had to figure out a majority of the college application process on my own without the option to ask my parents for guidance,” senior and first generation AVID student Brandon Nguyen said. “AVID places me in an environment with students of similar backgrounds which makes everyone feel comfortable and accepted.”
Although the AVID program is aimed to help students with limited encouragement or assistance from families, it is open for any student that has displayed a drive to succeed in college. While it mainly attracts first generation students, the senior AVID class this school year is split about 50/50, with first generation students and students that want extra support. Senior AVID student Leo Perez is one of the many individuals in the class who is not a first generation student.
“Even though my mom went to college, I definitely felt that I would have additional support if I took the AVID class,” Perez said. “This class gives us a lot of time to work on our college applications, and we have people that come in to assist with any questions or confusion we have. It has been extremely beneficial for me.”