Credit: riversideunified.org

Breanna Reeves |

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Victor Cisneros Jr. is the principal at Ramona High School, where he has been a faculty member for nearly 10 years now. 

As a student, Cisneros participated in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at North High School. AVID is a four-year program that provides admitted students with additional resources, support and strategies to prepare them for college attainment. The program is intended to guide students in completing A-G requirements for admission to California State Universities and University of California schools. 

Victor Cisneros Jr., Principal at Ramona High School in Riverside. (source: linkedin.com)

Ramona first implemented the AVID program in 1988 and has since been recognized for its success as a Site of Distinction. Ann Sullivan is currently the AVID Coordinator at Ramona. Students who are interested in joining the AVID program apply through a brief application process with a staff member where they discuss academic goals and get to know applicants. Cisneros attributed the success of Ramona’s AVID program to the teachers involved, the alumni who return as tutors, and to the students who are dedicated to completing the program.

Cisneros spoke with Black Voice News and IE Voice about the AVID program and the impact it has on students, especially culturally at a school where 80% of the student population identifies as Hispanic and many are first-generation prospective college students. Throughout his tenure, according to Cisneros, approximately 98% of students who graduated from the AVID program were accepted to a four-year college or university.

Q: Can you tell Black Voice News about the program?

C: It’s a program designed to help underserved youth, underrepresented [youth] who meet a certain criteria, like middle of the road kind of kid. There’s a lot of exceptions to this rule, but [it’s] typically kids who are Hispanic, Latino, [other] minority or kids who are first-generation college [bound]. They’re kids who probably have a 2.5 GPA. That’s the kind of kid  we’re targeting, specifically, to try to make a generational difference for them. I can tell you, I was a product of the AVID program myself, not at Ramona High School, but another nearby high school. So, it’s a program that we, including myself, believe very highly in.

Q: What is unique about this elective program compared to traditional instruction or other academic programs?

C: One of the unique flavors that Ramona’s AVID program gives our kids is, by default, how big the program is. We happen to have one of the largest programs in the region. We carry about — when I say sections, I mean one section equals 36 kids in the classroom–and we have about 20 to 21 sections every year. Typically, we have 20 sections of AVID, so that’s 20 periods of AVID with almost 20 different teachers of AVID.

What we always do programmatically, is that we make sure our program is represented by every department on campus. [For example,] there’s going to be at least one science teacher who also teaches AVID. 

The reason for that is twofold: One, to ensure that we have a good representation of the campus and the disciplines of the campus so we can speak to the entire educational experience of a kid. And two, to make sure that the kids are also [seeing teachers] in the core subjects. They also see them around campus. So, it’s that rapport building, that relationship building that they’re able to achieve even more. To me, that’s pretty unique.

Ramona Dell Scholars (ramona.riversideunified.org)

Q: You were once an AVID student and now you are the principal at Ramona High School which has been recognized as a national leader of AVID. How does it feel to be where you are now?

C: It’s super cool. It is a huge honor to represent the program, to know that I was an AVID student and the generational difference it made for me, I can always translate that. I did it and with whatever support you need, you can too, because I had a lot of support. I had a lot of people who poured into me. A teacher made all the difference for me.

I feel like I live in the clouds some days because the program is just such an outstanding program. It’s humbling to know that I get to serve under such amazing educators who just pour their hearts into our kids.

The program is not just a program that you sign up for, and then it works. It’s a program that truly supports you and it makes that realization of whatever your dreams are, a true reality if you pour into it yourself. If you’re willing to pour into it, the AVID program pours into you. We’re right there and there should be no reason why you’re not successful. And we don’t see many kids that are not successful.

Breanna Reeves

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.