AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.

Advancement Via Individual Determination

AVID National Conference - #AVIDNC17


Featured Speakers


Matthew Utterback
Superintendent, North Clackamas School District, 2017 National Superintendent of the Year

Matthew R. Utterback is the 2017 National Superintendent of the Year. He has been an educator for almost 30 years and spent the past five years as superintendent of the North Clackamas School District in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Utterback believes in building inclusive learning environments for students. Under his leadership, North Clackamas has begun to close student opportunity gaps. The district’s overall four-year graduation rate increased from 66 percent in 2011 to 83 percent in 2015.

Clackamas High School doubled its Advanced Placement enrollment while eliminating the enrollment gap for students of color. During this time, student participation in Advanced Placement exams increased by over 500 percent, and overall passing rates increased as well. With high achievement and 90 percent of graduates pursuing post-secondary education, Clackamas High School was rated as one of the top high schools in Oregon and the United States.

Learn how AVID has become one of the vehicles that drives equity, persistence, and grit in his district.




Jeremiah Pauley
Spokesman, Wounded Warrior Project


In the flash when an IED explodes and shrapnel enters your body, each moment becomes a matter of simply making it to the next moment. That’s where Jeremiah Pauley found himself in Tal Afar, Iraq in 2006.

Thanks to the medics nearby and the hospital treatments in Mosul and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, those moments shifted to figuring out what to do with his life as a survivor and how to deal with the trauma from knowing that someone who had served under him did not survive.

After bouncing around several different jobs and experiences, Jeremiah found his meaning by shifting his perspective to exploring his “why.” In describing his journey, Jeremiah cites Mark Twain: "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why."

Learn how Jeremiah’s involvement in Wounded Warrior Project not only helped him discover his “why” but also helps others in their journey. He shares his story as both a WWP spokesperson and member of the National Speaker’s Association.



Ben Needle
AVID and Content Teacher, Wheeler High School

Ben Needle teaches in the Cobb County School District where he attended school himself, which is fitting, since he knew by the 5th grade that he wanted to be a teacher.

Upon graduation from the University of Georgia, he began teaching at Kell High School and was named Teacher of The Year in 2006. Ben currently works at Wheeler High School, where he helped the local Rotary Club secure over $60,000 to launch their AVID program with plans for future investment.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Ben is an AVID Staff Developer and consultant, and has trained teachers for over a decade from nearby Atlanta all the way to Okinawa, Japan and Seoul, Korea. In his free time, Ben is likely to be found cheering for his son, driving dance carpool, or DJing parties around the southeast, but his true love is his family.

Learn more about AVID’s impact from Ben and the student panel at the National Conference Breakfast.