#206 – Possibility Panel: A Conversation with Recent Graduates

Unpacking Education August 2, 2023 47 min

This episode was recorded live at the AVID National Conference in Orlando, Florida, on December 9, 2022. It was part of the General Session that took place on the second day of the conference. In this episode, we feature four AVID alumni: Grace Campbell, Mildred Medina, Isaiah Walker, and Muhammad Kara. These former students joined us to share their inspirational success stories. They are amazing, and we know you will enjoy hearing about their experiences.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

AVID students aren’t regular, average students. They are the innovators, creators, and discoverers of tomorrow.

Jonathan Grant Brown, AVID Alum and Community Engagement Manager at AVID Center

Seeing and Grasping Possibility

Our conversation with recent graduates centers around what is possible for our students. How do we help them see what is possible, and how do we empower them to grab onto those possibilities when they present themselves? To help answer these questions and more, our panelists share insights from their personal journeys to success. Each panelist participated in the AVID program at some point in their K–12 education and has since graduated and moved on to a successful career path. The following are some highlights from our panel discussion:

  • Grace Campbell: Grace is a former AVID student who currently works as a wildlife biologist in Florida. She says, “I pursued wildlife as a career, and I feel that every day I’m trying to discover new things around me.”
  • Mildred Medina: Mildred is a former AVID student who currently works as the assistant director of enrollment services at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. She says, “I think of . . . the way that we’ve been able to utilize the tools that AVID gave us to pave our own pathways.”
  • Isaiah Walker: Isaiah is a former AVID student who is currently employed as a real estate agent in Florida. He says, “They [students] can be as great as anyone else.”
  • Muhammad Kara: Muhammad is also a former AVID student, and he is now a program analyst and doctoral student. He describes AVID students as risk-takers who can “challenge and solve today’s problems.”
  • Becoming Aware of Possibility: Our panelists talk about what helped them become aware of their own possibilities. Grace describes first becoming aware that college was an option in her middle school AVID class, and she recalled this experience later in life. She says, “When I graduated high school, I was kind of aimless in terms of what I wanted to do with my life, and I definitely thought back to my experience with AVID. Just kind of thinking, ‘I want to be a Florida Gator. I will be a Florida Gator, and I want to go to that school.’ And I graduated 2 years ago from the University of Florida, cum laude. So that experience definitely shaped where I am today.”
  • The Importance of Support: From family members to their teachers, our panelists each had someone in their life who supported them on their journey. Mildred talks about her family as well as how her AVID teachers showed up to celebrate her graduation. She says, “That just showed me how much they really, truly cared. That pushed me honestly through, after high school going into college, because I knew—now more than ever—’I don’t just have my parents behind me, and my friends, and my family. I have my AVID family still there, still cheering me on and supporting me.’” Isaiah agrees, saying his AVID teacher was “there for me from the beginning.”
  • Recognition for Success: Our panelists talk about the value and impact of being recognized for their successes. After receiving a Dell scholarship, Muhammad recalls the experience, saying, “It was something that kind of made me feel seen and made me feel heard.” He adds that it was like they were telling him, “You, yourself, are enough for us to take a risk to give you this substantial amount of money to go pursue higher education.”
  • Overcoming Challenges: Our panelists talk about how their AVID experience came back to them later in life and helped them overcome challenges. Grace believes that she never would have graduated from the University of Florida without her AVID experience.
  • You Are Enough: Muhammad has learned much from his experiences. He says that he learned, “No matter what space you walk into, you are enough and that you belong there. I think specifically to my own professional career and my, now, academic career—these spaces that you’ve not only just been invited to, but you’re expected to show up, and you need to show up with the ways of your lived experience, your identities, and be bold in that. That took me a while to get to, and I was relatively reserved in doing that . . . and a mentor of mine really brought that out and stated that by not being bold and by not bringing your lived experience and your authentic self, you’re doing a disservice to not only the position but to everyone around you. That was one lesson I learned, and I’m still learning it in the spaces that I navigate, and I think it’s going to be an ongoing thing.”
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Mildred says, “A lesson that I’ve learned is really just to be kind to yourself, especially when you’re thinking about goal planning and what time you want to set for yourself to accomplish that goal. Things happen. Life happens. It’s okay. Be kind to yourself. You may have to make a change to that goal.” She adds, “Sometimes, you have to make those adjustments, and sometimes, you make a goal, and time happens, and you realize that’s not really your goal anymore. Maybe you don’t want to do that. Maybe you want to do something else. So just giving yourself that grace—being kind to yourself and allowing yourself that opportunity to change if needed and kind of change that pathway—is something that I’ve definitely learned.”
  • Have Faith in Yourself: Grace also talks about what she has learned. She talks about the importance of having faith in oneself and in giving oneself grace. She says, “I’ve had this name my whole life, and only until recently have I really thought about what that means to have grace for yourself and for people, and I feel like it’s allowing me to come more into myself and living my happiest life.”
  • Giving Back: In addition to sharing their stories on this panel, our guests have given back to others in multiple ways, many through mentoring. Mildred says, “It’s such a rewarding experience to be able to help someone else in high school trying to figure things out.” Isaiah talks about the value of teaching others “who just don’t have the knowledge” yet.
  • Be Open-Minded: Our panelists continue to keep themselves open to possibility. Muhammad says, “Showing up authentically allows me to be open to other possibilities or new possibilities. . . . If you, yourself, are open-minded, and willing, and ready to take on a task that maybe you aren’t, per se, amazing at or great at, but you’re willing to learn and put in the hard work and the dedication towards it, you’ll see the buyout at the end.”
  • Saying Yes: Isaiah reminds us, “It’s easy to say no, but it’s harder to say yes. So you don’t know what doors may open if you say yes. You may not be the best at what they’re asking, but take a chance. Take a leap.” He adds, “If you are always saying no, you’re not going to grow.”
  • Parting Wisdom: Each panelist ends with a final takeaway. Isaiah says, “Look at what AVID produces. What you do, it helps. You’re making a difference. If you could, reach back to your old students, your alumni, and see if they can come back and inspire your students.” Mildred reminds us, “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to planning your pathway.” Grace says, “Encourage what excites people. . . . If you chase what excites you, rather than trying to get big dollar signs or something like that, that’s what’s going to fulfill you at the end of the day. At least for me it has.” Muhammad reflects on his AVID experience, saying, “AVID classrooms are very unique and special places. . . . They’re a classroom where you can show up, and you can actually come as you are.”

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • When did you become aware of your career possibilities?
  • Who invested in you on your journey toward a career?
  • When have you been recognized for succeeding, and how did that impact you?
  • Who or what has helped you overcome challenges in your life?
  • What life lessons have you learned that you can pass along to others?
  • How can you pay your success forward?
  • How do you stay ready for new possibilities?