AVID/Holy Cross College Readiness Virtual Panels – Guest Blogger, Community Partner, Janet Mathieu

Guest blogger, community partner, Janet Mathieu (Community Resource and AVID Specialist) blogs about a recent virtual partnership between AVID in WPS and Holy Cross students.


The College of the Holy Cross and Worcester Public Schools AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) have partnered since 2009.  It is a positive collaborative relationship involving recruitment of Holy Cross students to lead collaborative study groups (AVID tutorials) in the AVID classrooms. The Donelan Office at Holy Cross supplies us with numerous CBL students who adeptly participate in AVID, as AVID trained tutors. The AVID tutors provide direct instructional support to students with the assistance of the AVID Elective teacher using an inquiry process and serving as role models.

AVID’s goal is to share the tools with our students to inspire academic effort and growth, celebrate achievement, and provide exposure to college enriching opportunities. 

Realizing our constraints with distance learning due to COVID-19, who else would we turn to but the Community Based Learning at the College of the Holy Cross. To hear firsthand about the college experience from college students themselves makes the college experience real and attainable. Hence, we collaborated with the Donelan Office and quickly formulated the Holy Cross/AVID college student panel.  

Five students, Julianne Esteves ’22, Kathryn Hauver ’22, Sly Dwyer ’21, Julianna Lopez-Picardi ’21, and Ronald Pena ’21 shared what it was like to transition from middle school through high school and onto college.  Each college student had a different journey which was insightful and enriching for our middle school students to envision their own trajectory to college.  

The virtual panel discussion was a grand success!  Elizabeth Pirani, AVID teacher exclaimed, “It was just the kind of experience that the students needed… not only for the exposure to college and career but the ‘socialization’ of the experience made such a positive impact on them.  Students at this time, work only in their designated groups and besides their teachers, they see no one else through the course of the day. They don’t ‘see’ their friends and are not able to make new ones, they don’t have a locker, they don’t go to the lunchroom, they are probably doing  ‘physical education’ in front of the computer screen.” So in some small ways, Ms. Pirani feels the interactive panel helped to fill that void.

The panelists shared a multitude of tips:

      • Plan a challenging course schedule.
      • Keep records of classes and grades.
      • Work on time management.
      • Persevere no matter what.
      • Gather information on various colleges, majors and careers. 

Outside of academics the college students talked about the importance of doing what makes you happy.  Extracurricular activities that make them who they are included working at a zoo, taking a hospice internship, being a blogger about ice cream, and working at UMass Medical. 

A highlight of particular interest to the AVID students was when Sly talked about receiving an “F” on one of his first papers, in freshman year. His professor asked that he come to see her. That was a turning point for him. Sly was upset because he worked very hard on the paper, he felt unprepared for the workload and he didn’t know how to move forward.  He said his professor wanted him to succeed and assisted him every step of the way.  He said the encouragement, support and belief in him succeeding is what made all the difference in moving forward.  He is currently studying Pre-Med.

AVID is most grateful to Sly, Kathryn, Julianna, Julianne and Ronald for sharing what the responsibilities of college entails, how to persevere and ask for help, the importance to pursue your happiness and that college is within their grasp!

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