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CMS AVID students learn about the value of a mentor
Classroom of students standing with teacher and guest speaker


Tom Nailor went to Providence College in Rhode Island to study English. By his senior year, he knew that writing a novel or teaching English was not what he wanted to do for a career, so he turned to his mentors for help. Those people guided him toward social work and the path he's taking today as a therapist at the University of Pennsylvania.

The value of finding mentors was the message that Mr. Nailor wanted to leave with the eighth grade students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) elective at Colonial Middle School (CMS) when he visited the class in April. AVID is a program that gives students in the academic middle a chance to develop study and organizational skills and get a head start on planning for college.

"I think it's really important to find mentors who inspire you and who you can talk to openly about your hopes, fears, doubts and who can help you figure out what your next move will be," said Mr. Nailor. "Plus, exposing kids to what's out there and what the world might look like is a good thing to do."

Learning from guest speakers

The AVID program at Colonial Middle School has welcomed several guest speakers this year, including former Plymouth Whitemarsh High School (PWHS) AVID student and West Chester University graduate Justice Walden, PWHS graduate and owner of Sal's Barbershops Salvatore Giannone and the AVID students currently in the program at the high school.

"It's interesting to have people come talk to our class, because everyone has different jobs, different experiences and a different story to tell," said eighth grader Jules Oxnam.

How the AVID elective works

Six students in a circle holding random hands and trying to get untangled.


The AVID curriculum focuses on WICOR (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading), college preparedness and character development. To help them in their other classes, the eighth graders learn how to take Cornell Notes, a strategy for organizing and developing a better understanding what they learn.

"People might be surprised how much AVID helps and how Cornell Notes help you be better in school," said eighth grader Aniya Bond. "I also like the activities we do and the people in the class."

Teachers recommend students for the AVID program. The students commit to AVID in a special ceremony and often remain in the program through graduation from high school. For many of the PWHS AVID graduates, they've been the first in their families to go to college.

"My favorite thing about AVID is working with kids and being able to serve as a positive role model for kids who may or may not have that support at home. A lot of the students in AVID don't have the same kind of support that some of their peers might have," said Jonathan Pitts, the AVID teacher at CMS. "I really want them to get in the mindset that they're going to go to college, and I really want to encourage them to find their passion, embrace their passion and maybe that will lead to a career interest."

Get involved

The AVID program at CMS and PWHS is one of the targeted funding areas for the Colonial School District Education Foundation (CSDEF). To make a donation or to share your experiences as a career speaker, contact Denise Marks, Director of Development and Curriculum Supervisor for Career Readiness, at or call 610-834-1670, ext. 2151.