Early admission programs encourage Fort Vancouver students to pursue higher ed dream

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Advancement Via Individual Determination

What: A Vancouver Public Schools program offering rigorous curriculum to promote student achievement.

Why: Help students succeed in school, graduate and plan for college.

Who: Students who are passing their classes, but may lack the support to pursue a college education.

How: Rigorous academic instruction, tutors, mentors and a college-going culture.

Where: Two VPS elementaries; all middle and high schools except VSAA.

To learn about becoming an AVID tutor, contact Courtney Yinger, 360-313-1022 or courtney.yinger@vansd.org/.

On-site, early college admission

Washington State University and WSU Vancouver.

Piloted this year at Fort Vancouver High School and four Puget Sound area high schools.

Jessica Wheeler's parents dropped out of high school in 10th grade. She never considered college until seventh grade, when she was chosen for the district's AVID program that helps students succeed in school and plan for college.

"The teacher made us think college was an option," said Jessica, 17, who said she's "teeter-tottering between studying nursing and pharmacy."

Jose Scott's parents graduated from high school, but they didn't finish college. He said he's determined to earn a degree.

Born in Korea, Joseph Colombo, 18, didn't speak a word of English when he was adopted by a Vancouver family three years ago. When his new parents took him on a campus visit to the University of Washington, he was inspired to attend college there.

Jose, Jessica and Joseph, all seniors at Fort Vancouver High School, recently received early notice that they have been admitted to Washington State University.

Last year, only 13 seniors at Fort Vancouver were accepted by WSU. This year, already triple that number have been accepted, and more are expected to join the ranks before WSU's Jan. 31 priority deadline.

That surge can be credited largely to the school's participation in two innovative programs.

Early admission

For the first time, Fort Vancouver is piloting an on-site, early college entrance program with WSU and WSUV. It's one of only five high schools chosen in the state, and the only one in Southwest Washington.

Admissions representatives have been at the school this week and last week to meet one-on-one with students, and to welcome students who qualify with an official admission letter.

"Most students came out of the meeting with faces beaming," said Courtney Yinger, who coordinates the district's AVID program that prepares students for college. "Many are the first in their family to attend college. It's a great way to bridge the gap for kids who don't have a strong college tradition."

Fort Vancouver is the district's high school with the highest percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.


AVID is the second program contributing to Fort Vancouver's increase in students applying for college. AVID, short for Advancement Via Individual Determination, uses rigorous academic instruction, tutors, mentors and a culture that encourages attaining a college degree. AVID is available at all Vancouver district middle and high schools except Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. This year, it's also being offered at two elementary schools.

Bethany Rivard and Marie Monek are the driving force behind the push for so many Fort Vancouver seniors applying for college.

"What's different about AVID students is they have this internal drive that has to be activated by educators who can support them to realize their college dreams," said Rivard, the school's AVID teacher for seniors.

In their AVID class, seniors learn about college requirements, when they can take the SAT, which colleges would be a good fit for them, how to complete an online application and how to apply for financial aid.

"Students are responsible for navigating their own futures and relaying that information to their parents," Rivard said.

Rivard and the school's other AVID teachers point the way toward college or technical school.

So does Monek, the school's career center clerk who sits down with students individually. She helps them set up an online account for each college and coaches them about the application process.

Jose, Jessica and Joseph credit their early acceptance to WSU as a confidence booster to apply to other colleges. Already accepted at Corban University, Jose is waiting to hear whether he'll be accepted at Eastern Washington University. Jessica is completing applications to EWU and Central Washington University. Joseph applied to George Fox University and his dream school, the University of Washington, where he plans to earn a nursing degree.

Next Monek will sit down with each senior and encourage them to apply for scholarships and other financial aid.

"I don't think college is for everybody," Jessica said. "Find your interest. Find something that will last."