Students in Culver City Middle School’s AVID program had the experience this past year of hearing members of the Chamber of Commerce talk about their businesses and the job potential of those businesses.
The guest speaker talks, courtesy of the Chamber’s Education Committee, were part of the AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) program. Designed to help high potential students who would be the first in their families to go to college, to be college ready, AVID is an elective class program available for 8-12th graders at both Culver City Middle and Culver City High School.
“As a former AVID teacher (at CCMS) myself, I know how challenging it is to locate willing guest speakers,” said Sue Robbins of the Education Committee. “That’s where we come in (the Chamber).
“I worked with the two AVID teachers at the middle school to develop a list of dates which would work with the curriculum schedule and then recruited chamber members to speak to the students on those days. We had speakers for every selected day and some speakers we couldn't fit in thanks to the overwhelming offers of support from our business community.
“Since the classes occur back to back in the school day, several of our speakers spoke with both classes, and on some days we had a different speaker for each class. Our speakers were from a wide variety of services and industries, including retail, insurance, law, sales, hospitality [and] finance.”
Some well known Culver City business owners who participated were Sal Gonzales, owner of Culver City Volvo, Jon Arenson of Anderson Plywood, and Doug Newton, GM of the Culver City Hotel.
“Avid is a national program,” explained Robbins. “A big part of AVID is helping these kids whose parents work hourly wage jobs and are not college-educated. So they have no sense of what is out there. The goal [of AVID] is to bring in people saying “This is what is out there and this is how to get there” so kids can begin to see that there’s this incredible range of opportunities they didn’t even know about.”
Gonzales described his experience talking to the kids as “great” because “the kids were engaged in the conversation about the career path.
“They were basically asking about what I’d done to get to be in my position. They’d ask if I liked working with a big group of people. I’d tell them it’s great because it’s a collaborative effort—everyone pulls together—you’re a team.”
Gonzales also talked with the students about businesses helping the community. “You do community outreach because you want to sponsor or help organizations. For me, it’s the schools-it’s part of giving back.”
The AVID program, to Gonzales, is about “being professional in front of [the kids].” Since most of the AVID students don’t have a perspective about college, “You’re up there to promote school and education and what it could do for them.”
Donna Morris, one of the two teachers at Culver City Middle School’s AVID program, praised the “diversity of the speakers.”
“From attorneys to business owners to mortgage brokers, the students heard about a wide range of careers. Through this experience, the middle schoolers heard a common theme; life does not always take you down a smooth path, but perseverance, hard work, and initiative will make all the difference in achieving success.
“I thought the middle schoolers might not be as engaged in the process of listening to Guest Speakers (compared to high schoolers) because they are still several years away from having to make career decisions. But this experience certainly planted the seed for students to work hard and show initiative. It’s never too early to hear that message.”