While the new school year officially started Sept. 4, a handful of Westlake High School students headed back to school early for an AVID boot camp. First-year Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students attended the program to get a leg up on their studies.

“We needed to revamp and revitalize our AVID program,” said Holly Dolan, a resource teacher. “The boot camp is exposing first-year AVID students not only to the school and the physical space, but to the routines AVID has in place.”

Westlake is breathing new life into its AVID program, opening the program to kids who want to be there. AVID students are likely college-bound but might be the first generation in their family who will attend an institute of higher learning. Westlake also is focused on promoting AVID for students who are members of an underrepresented demographic in college populations or who come from a single-parent home.

After hearing feedback from teachers on what pieces of the school’s AVID’s program needed strengthening, the boot camp sessions found focus. One session zeroed in on how to best fill out a Tutorial Request Form (TRF).

The forms prompt students to become more reflective learners, Dolan said. Students fill out a TRF when they need some extra help in a subject. Their peers can then guide them through any points of confusion. However, students who fill out a TRF don’t only point out what they don’t know, they have to write out what they do know. “It encourages metacognitive thinking,” Dolan said.

During the boot camp, students worked on nonacademic puzzles and riddles to get their feet wet with AVID practices. “They’ll be familiar and able to apply the practices and use them for academic purposes,” Dolan said.

The AVID tutorials teach students how to get help and get the help they need, said Stephen Warner, a social studies teacher who helped with boot camp. “If you lose money, you can make more money. If you lose friends, you can make new friends,” he said. “If you lose time? Don’t waste your time, don’t waste your classmate’s time. It’s the only thing you can’t make more of and you don’t know how much you have.”

He said that many of the lessons learned in high school AVID classes are things that college students do naturally. “High school is harder than middle school,” Warner said. “College is an even bigger step and sometimes you’re going to need help. College students come together to work in groups, they ask for help.”

Freshman Makayla Johnson said signing up for boot camp helped her get used to high school. “It’s preparing me for the upcoming school year,” she said. Johnson was among the more than 30 students who signed up for the three-day summer program. “By inviting kids in, they’re getting a more solid footing,” Dolan said.