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

Wall of Fame

From 1997 to 2000, Jonathan Freedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, volunteered his time to teach writing in various high school classrooms in the San Diego Unified School District. In his words, ”The high schools where I taught were not Disneylands. The dilapidated buildings, armored with steel gates, were guarded by police. Classes were held in scabrous ‘portable’ classrooms, where poor working conditions lowered teacher morale… Kids were so anxious about their security—emotional, social, sexual—that they could not focus on classroom learning… Yet two classrooms I visited seemed altogether different: student morale was high, teachers were dynamic, study was rigorous, learning was exciting… On the wall of Mr. Visconti’s classroom at Crawford High School, students had painted an arresting mural. At the top, in foot-high letters, a brash, graffiti-style sign proclaimed: WALL OF FAME. Beneath it, stenciled in gritty black letters, ran a long list of students, followed by the dates of their graduation, and the universities they were attending.“

In 1999, Freedman wrote Wall of Fame, chronicling the founding of AVID. Here, we highlight the many awards and achievements of those who serve AVID and those whom AVID serves.

AVID Founder’s Scholarship


In 2006, in honor of AVID Founder Mary Catherine Swanson’s retirement as CEO, the Board of Directors established a perpetual AVID Founder’s Scholarship to be given annually to one student who epitomizes the AVID strength and determination. The scholarship has grown from $25,000 to $50,000 and may be used by the honored student for any college expenses.

Melissa VenegasMelissa Venegas
Montgomery High School
Sweetwater Union High School District
University of California, Los Angeles

Melissa graduated sixth in her class of 335, with a GPA of 4.5. She took nine AP® courses. She is the Associated Student Body commissioner of finance and vice president of her senior class. She was her AP Calculus Club president, Biology Club president, and AVID Club president. She was also Link Crew leader and active in CSF, Key Club, M.E.Ch.A., and the National Society of High School Scholars. She volunteered at an animal shelter and at Kaiser Permanente, where she also interned. Melissa wants to be a pediatrician and will study medicine at UCLA, which she is pursuing without parental support.

Fausto BayFausto Bay
Sweetwater High School
Sweetwater Union High School District
University of California, Los Angeles

Fausto, a four-year AVID student, took seven Advanced Placement classes and graduated from high school with a 3.7 GPA. He worked 30 hours a week in a local restaurant during all four years of high school. Fausto will major in Business and Economics and aspires to become an entrepreneur. Raised as a foster child since the age of seven, Fausto wants to give back to his community, and help his family and others. He says his education will “help him to reach all of his goals.”

Marcela AlvarezMarcela Alvarez
Montgomery High School
Sweetwater Union High School District
University of California, San Diego

Marcela’s high school career began with her father moving out of their house. A few months later, her mother lost her job. Marcela graduated from high school with a flawless transcript as class salutatorian. She is proud to say that she was president of M.E.Ch.A. and the Calculus Club; treasurer of Science Olympiad; maintained a high GPA; and worked 30 hours per week. Recently, she made the campus-wide Provost Honors List at UCSD.

Gloria KyalloGloria Kyallo
Mira Mesa High School
San Diego Unified School District
University of California, Riverside

Gloria is a Kenyan native. When her family moved to the US, she and her sister were able to pursue educational goals and dreams with no social stigmas or stereotypes because they were female. Gloria is pursuing a degree in Political Science International Affairs at UC Riverside, where she started a U-TOUCH (Universal Technology Outreach Community Hubs) Club that works to bridge the opportunity and digital divide and to empower women and girls in Uganda.

Jessica AguilarJessica Aguilar
San Ysidro High School
Sweetwater Union High School District
University of California, San Diego

Jessica comes from a low-income family from the border town of San Ysidro. She’s the oldest of four, and her parents never went to college, so it was essential that she set an example. Jessica was active in her high school and held many positions of leadership, including: vice president of the AP Scholars Club, vice president of Ballet Folklorico, secretary of the AVID Club, and secretary of M.E.Ch.A. She was also a member of the Spanish Honor Society. Currently, Jessica is the treasurer and social chair of her sorority’s UCSD chapter.

Luis RiosLuis Rios
El Capitan High School
Grossmont Union High School District
University of California, Berkeley

Luis comes from a community plagued by ignorance, crime, and drug abuse. He started AVID in 6th grade, and it changed the course of his life. After high school graduation, Luis studied molecular neurobiology at UC Berkeley and finished his degree in three years with a 3.8 GPA. He spent the next year doing neuro-research and learning Japanese. Recently, Luis worked at the Salk Institute in La Jolla and in a lab at Osaka University in Japan. Luis plans to apply to Ph.D. programs focusing on neurochemistry.

Fadi ShayaFadi Shaya
Grossmont High School
Grossmont Union High School District
University of California, Los Angeles

Fadi grew up in Iraq, which was filled with war and chaos. To protect himself, he taught himself how to shoot and kill when he was only nine years old. Tragically, a group of terrorists blew up his house. The oldest of four siblings, Fadi worked at a young age, selling Kleenex 16 hours a day to help support his family. He arrived in the US not knowing English and never having attended school. He quickly learned how to read, write, and speak English, and with the help of the skills that he learned in AVID, was accepted to UCLA.

Jose HernandezJose Hernandez
El Cajon Valley High School
Grossmont Union High School District
University of California, Los Angeles

Coming from a low-income immigrant family, there wasn’t a lot of money for Jose to attend college. In high school, Jose was editor of the yearbook, class president, on the varsity tennis team, and graduated as one of the top 10 in his class. AVID helped this once-shy boy get into college and become the assertive leader that he is today. Jose plans to apply to a master’s program in journalism or take a leap of faith and move to New York to work in the magazine industry.

Jayro MedinaJayro Medina
Marine Military Academy
Harlingen, Texas
The Citadel

The first of six siblings to graduate from high school, Jayro was the first AVID Founder’s Scholarship recipient. He graduated from The Citadel and is currently working for Kaiser Permanente, still implementing all of his AVID strategies. Jayro’s goals for the future are to own his own business using the skills that he received from AVID and be able to provide others with the keys to success.

AVID Teacher Advocacy Award


The AVID Teacher Advocacy Award was made possible through the generous support of an AVID benefactor to honor the work of AVID educators. It was created to:

  1. Support California AVID Elective teachers and site team teachers;
  2. Improve AVID teaching;
  3. Retain AVID teachers;
  4. Allow for the sharing of best practices and professional learning by awardees; and
  5. Further the AVID mission.

Awardees were chosen because they either demonstrated an exceptional role in student advocacy; assisted in addressing the needs of a student, while in pursuit of higher education, and/or assisted the student population in contributing to the needs of their community and society; overcame a professional challenge (e.g., institutional, geographical, organizational, financial); or emerged as an exceptional leader in support of the AVID mission in a school, district, or community.

Award recipients each receive $10,000 and have two years to use the funds for:
  • Professional development fees, reasonable travel, and per diem expenses
  • Use of classroom consultants
  • Classroom equipment and materials, including technology and books

2015 Awardees

Left to Right: Marlon Smotherman, Kristi Lee, Frank Kovac, Michael Collins, Mark Fairbank

Michael Collins
Valley High School
Santa Ana Unified School District
Mark Fairbank
Paso Robles High School
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District
Frank Kovac
South Tahoe High School
Lake Tahoe Unified High School District
Kristi Lee
Edison High School
Stockton Unified School District
Marlon Smotherman
Pacific High School
San Bernardino City Unified School District

2014 Awardees

Left to Right: Senior Director for the California Division Robin Kisinger, Joanna Vandal, Lori Steward, Dr. Sergio Mora, Lucia Dorado (Chas Konopka was unable to attend the 2014 Sacramento Summer Institute, where the award was presented.)

Lucia Dorado
Woodrow Wilson High School
Los Angeles Unified School District
Chas Konopka
Los Molinos High School
Los Molinos Unified School District
 Dr. Sergio Mora
Montclair High School
Chaffey Joint Union High School District
Lori Steward
Linden High School
Linden Unified School District
Joanna Vandal
Tustin High School
Tustin Unified School District

2013 Awardees

Left to Right: Tommy Stokes, Donna Rankin, Amanda Peterson, Amy Dellefield (Amy Lobsinger was unable to attend the 2013 Sacramento Summer Institute, where the award was presented.)

Amy Dellefield
Oakland High School
Oakland Unified School District  
Amy Lobsinger
Fesler Junior High School
Santa Maria-Bonita School District  
Amanda Peterson
Sunnyside High School
Fresno Unified School District
Donna Rankin
Jean Farb Middle School
San Diego Unified School District
Tommy Stokes
Moreno Valley High School
Moreno Valley Unified School District

The AVID Center Employees Scholarship Fund

The AVID Center Employees Scholarship Fund is awarded to students who represent the quintessential AVID Elective student—one who has overcome personal obstacles through sheer determination and is now moving onto college. The funds are to be used for any college-related expenses, including—but not limited to—tuition, books, housing, or travel.

The scholarship was created in 2012 and originally named in honor of Julie Elliott, a longtime AVID Center educator who had leadership woven into the fabric of her life. Today, the scholarship is largely funded by AVID Center employees, while anyone is able to donate to the fund.

Previous AVID Center Scholarship Fund award recipients include:

2012 (6 x $5,000)
Tiara Boyd
Cleveland Heights High School
Cleveland Heights, OH
University of Akron
Sandra Cordero
James Campbell High School
Ewa Beach, HI
Cornell College    
Roberto Gomez
Ennis High School
Ennis, TX
University of Texas at Arlington 
Aracely Miranda
Taylor Middle-High School
Pierson, FL
Stetson University
Jakia Smith
W.E.B. DuBois High School
Baltimore, MD
Notre Dame of Maryland University
Kiranjeet Kaur Thiara
Yuba City High School
Yuba City, CA

2013 (9 x $5,000)

Eli Butts
Monte Vista High School
Spring Valley, CA
California State University San Marcos
Katherine Cabrera
Alexander Hamilton Preparatory Academy
Elizabeth, NJ
Union County College
Luz Lule Camargo
Antelope Valley High School
Lancaster, CA
University of California, Santa Cruz
Joshua Labajo
Waialua High and Intermediate School
Waialua, HI
University of Hawaii – West Oahu
Christina Marshall
Rouse High School
Leander, TX
Texas State University
Marilu Ramirez
West Mesquite High School
Mesquite, TX
Tarleton State University
Janai Reynolds
Hall High School
Little Rock, AR
Southern Arkansas University
James Rozier
Jones High School
Orlando, FL
Florida A&M University
Heather Speaks
Capital High School
Boise, ID
University of Idaho

2014 (8 x $2,500)

Marianna Estrada
Shorecrest High School
Shoreline, WA
University of Washington
Myra Dennis Gianakos
West Fargo High School
West Fargo, ND
Concordia College
Hakeem Harrison
Freedom High School
Orlando, FL
University of North Florida
Flor Azul Lorenzo
Middle College High School
Santa Ana, CA
University of California, Santa Cruz
Alejandra Moreno
Smithfield-Selma High School
Smithfield, NC
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Yesenia Rivera
Anderson High School
Austin, TX
Southwestern University
Sarahi Solano
East High School
Salt Lake City, UT
University of Utah
Loc Truong
School of International Business –
Kearny High School Complex
San Diego, CA
University of California, San Diego

2015 (12 x $2,500)

Dommanique Bonner 
Eastern Hills High School
Fort Worth, TX
Texas State University 
Nala Comstock
Hudson's Bay High School
Vancouver, WA
Washington State University
Naomi De Silva
Santa Paula High School
Santa Paula, CA
CSU Fullerton
Reyna Galarza    
Pioneer High School
Whittier, CA
Shemar Gordon
Clewiston High School
Clewiston, FL
Florida Southwestern
Lonyae Jones
Thomas Jefferson High School
Auburn, WA
Central Washington University
Sierra Logan
Hall High School
Little Rock, AR
Arkansas Tech University
Arielle Morrow
Parkville High School
Baltimore, MD
Elon University
Maria Nakis
Long Island City High School
Astoria, NY
New York University
Maria Nava
Carpinteria High School
Santa Barbara, CA
University of Texas
Chris Malave
John B. Connally High School
Austin, TX
Texas State University 
Tyson Vimahi
Kahuku High & Intermediate School
Kahuku, HI

AVID/U-T San Diego Community Service Award


AVID Center and U-T San Diego have joined forces to recognize organizations that demonstrate commitment to improving the lives of our youth and the community at large. We have created the AVID/U-T San Diego Community Service Award and present it annually to an organization that shares AVID’s commitment to ensuring success for all students. The following is a list of organizations that have received the award.

Classroom of the Futures Foundation        
USS Midway Museum
Wells Fargo
University Club
Citi Foundation
Padres Scholars
Wachovia Foundation
San Diego Gas and Electric
San Diego Economic
Development Corporation
San Diego Padres Baseball Club