‘The Triumphant 23’ Have Their Moment: GHS AVID Class of ’14

Monday’s graduation for 23 members of GHS’s AVID Class of ’14 was a joyous event. Held at Eastern Greenwich Civic Center, hundreds of balloons adorned the walls and brilliant sunshine was beamed through the giant picture windows.

AVID students, gathered around the tables set for a party, shared some of their thoughts on the program.

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Sara DeFasio, Monica Fernandez, Elizabeth Cid, Diamond Outlaw, Maria Sol Anyosa and Leticia DeSouza. Credit: Leslie Yager

Diamond Outlaw described AVID as a family and her classmates all agreed. “We’re all very close,” she said. “That gives us momentum.” Asked what’s best about AVID, she replied, “To be a part of something.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.25.07 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.23.48 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.21.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.19.39 PM  Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 8.51.36 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 8.50.29 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 8.48.11 PMThe program kicked off with remarks from both US Congressman Jim Himes (D-Conn) and Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.23.48 PMHimes congratulated the 23 AVID graduates.

“I’m just so thrilled to be with you on this very happy night,” Himes said.

Himes brought a certificate of Congressional recognition for each of the 23 graduates.


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First Selectman Peter Tesei read a proclamation honoring the AVID class of 2014. Credit: Leslie Yager

Tesei said, “When you want to look at what has direct impact on a community, you just need to come this evening’s festivities and see what direct impact is, and for that I want to applaud the Greenwich Alliance for Education and all those who support and nurture the program to make it successful,” he said before reading a proclamation that read in part:

…whereas AVID “targets students in the academic middle who desire to go to college and have a willingness to work hard, and often come from groups traditionally underrepresented on college campuses, whereas in the 2013-2014 year, 23 AVID seniors under the tutelage of Mara Adelsberg and Ken Alcorn, submitted applications and completed essays to colleges, whereas all students in the class of 2014 were accepted to college and many received scholarships and grants totaling over $1.5 million over 4 years.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 8.46.49 PM“My grandmother and grandfather both went to college. My mother and father both went to college,” said Headmaster Winters. “There was never a doubt from the day I was born that I would go to college. There was never a consideration. There was never a question. It was just assumed.”

Winters said that while hiking last Friday with the AVID 9th grade students, he heard personal stories and became aware of the self-doubts, fears and setbacks they grapple with.

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Julie Faryniaz and GHS AVID teacher Ken Alcorn at Monday’s graduation at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center. Credit: Leslie Yager

“People like Ken Alcorn, Laura Brill, Frank Kovac, Sara Goldin and Mara Adelsberg to get them to believe what I believed from the day I was born, which is ‘I am going to college,’” Winters said.

Winters also acknowledged the tremendous support AVID program receives from The Greenwich Alliance for Education.

“The Alliance doesn’t just help us with their money. People need to know they help us with their time, their effort, their thought, their partnership,” Winters said.

IMG_3829Flanagan on AVID ’14: From tentative 23, to tenacious 23, and finally Triumphant 23

“Think back to the first day of Greenwich High School and the apprehension, anxiety and a little bit of fear,” said Deputy Superintendent, Ellen Flanagan. “At this stage I’d probably have described you as the Tentative 23.”

“Although you may have faltered you didn’t give up. You persevered. You became the Tenacious 23.” Flanagan said that four years later, the AVID class of ’14 are headed off to Norwalk Community College, Manhattanville College, American University and the Naval Academy, to name a few.

Flanagan urged the graduates to prize learning throughout their lifetimes.

“I did not get my doctorate until I was nearly 50,” said Flanagan. “Dr. Winters did not get his until he was approaching 100,” she said to a chorus of laughter. “There is no age limit on learning. It is a gift you can give yourselves throughout your lifetime. It is a gift no one can take away from you. It is a gift that will validate your current title: The Triumphant 23,” Flanagan said.

Julie Faryniarz, director of the Greenwich Alliance, congratulated Mara Adelsberg, for winning the Distinguished Teacher Award this year. “You are remarkable person, guidance counselor, AVID site coordinator, friend to Greenwich Alliance and all students and parents would agree you have made a huge impact on their lives,” Faryniarz said.

“Ken Alcorn, from the minute I met you, I have marveled at your calm and steady disposition with your students,” Faryniarz continued. “This clearly paid off as evidenced by the success of 23 members of the AVID class of 2014.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 8.50.58 AMJasmine Coloma described transitioning into the high school felt like entering into a foreign world. “Us freshmen weren’t used to the vast amount of 6 ft kids or the copious choices of food and public displays of affection everywhere we looked. However, when I first stepped into the school, I wasn’t sure if I was more concerned about tough teachers giving truckloads of homework or being confronted by upperclassmen.”

“After a couple weeks things settled down when I realized that upperclassmen didn’t really notice us. And the teachers weren’t really that mean,” she said, adding that she credited AVID with helping underclassmen with their anxiousness and offering an opportunity to grow as a family.

Ken Alcorn, who was the second AVID teacher in the history of the program at GHS reflected on applying to become a teacher for the program and interviewing many the 2014 AVID graduates when they were applying four years ago.

“We all spoke with great self-assurance. I was eager to inspire your confidence. You were eager to impress with your ambition. But on both sides of the table we were riding on faith. Faith in a program we knew little about. Faith in each other, whom we didn’t know. And faith in ourselves.” – Ken Alcorn

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.30.18 PMAdelsberg said that earlier in the day, she’d talked with a group of AVID 11 students about the achievement gap in education.

“The insights and ideas expressed were inspiring and it kept a smile on my face all day. All of the students felt that with determination and support from family, peers and school that they will be able to continue to meet with success.”

Adelsberg said to the AVID students that there will be times they’re tested, asked to take risks and step out of their comfort zones. “The idea in AVID is that individual determination is such critical component to your success. Your determination is a testament to your character, resiliency, perseverance and commitment.”

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Contract signing event for the GHS AVID program on Wednesday May 8. Credit: Leslie Yager

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