Senior class members of Everett High School’s AVID program respond to speaker Christian Paige’s request for the audience to raise their hands and say, “I am!” periodically during his performance of spoken word poetry Thursday night at a kick-off event for the Rotary Club of Everett, which announced a $100,000 commitment to the Everett School District’s AVID program. The senior girls are (from left) Sandy Vo, Daisy Sotelo, Elizabeth Casper, Stephany Angeles-Robles and Margaux Cudaback. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Everett Rotary pledges $100,000 to college-readiness program

Cascade High School senior Mercedes Flenoy wants to be a pediatric surgeon. The goal for Cameron Smith, an Everett High sophomore, is becoming a lawyer. And Adrionna Yelle, a freshman at Everett High, hopes to be a veterinarian.

With big dreams, they came Wednesday night to Everett School District headquarters. Along with dozens of other students involved in the district’s AVID program, they were part of a kickoff celebration for the Rotary Club of Everett’s 100th anniversary.

Through its Next Generation Project, started in 2013, the club supports AVID, a college-readiness program. An acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination, AVID is an international nonprofit with the aim of preparing all students for college or other career opportunities.

Ed Petersen, Rotary Club of Everett president, announced a $100,000 commitment from the club “to advance the goal of helping AVID students succeed.” Noting that Rotary was launched in Everett in December 1916, Petersen said “we’re ending 100 years, and are very focused on the next 100 years.”

An elective class in Everett’s middle schools and high schools, AVID helps students with note-taking, organizational skills and other study habits. It awards scholarships, pays for visits to college campuses, and helps teens and their families navigate the college application process.

Rotary dollars will provide $33,000 in scholarships for Everett’s AVID students, along with supporting the program’s classroom efforts and college tours.

The Hope Initiative, a mentoring program started by students at the now-closed Trinity Lutheran College, is also part of Rotary’s commitment to students. Through the Hope Initiative, college students have worked with college-bound kids who are facing obstacles.

With the closure of Trinity in Everett, students at Everett Community College will step in to help. Rotary will spearhead the mentoring program. “The Hope Initiative has become part of us,” Petersen said.

Wednesday’s event was an ice cream social attended by students and parents. One extra treat was an uplifting talk by Christian Paige. A 23-year-old graduate of Trinity Lutheran College, Paige was one of the founders of the Hope Initiative who mentored kids at Sequoia High School and Everett High.

Paige said no one mentioned college to him until 10th grade. He received a standing ovation after performing his spoken-word poetry, which included audience participation. During his recitation, on cue, kids raised their hands and joined in by saying “I am.”

Petersen said the gathering was the first of several events the club will present for its centennial. Students also heard from Rotary members with varied careers, including: Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy; real estate and lending professional Andrea Sekora; the Rev. Erik Samuelson, a Lutheran pastor; Capt. Greg Lineberry of the Everett Police Department; and Dr. Amy Norman, an Everett dentist.

Norman urged teens to volunteer with the Rotary club’s AVID HighFive Walkathon, planned for next spring. In May, the event raised more than $12,000 for AVID programs, she said.

Encouraged by a prize drawing, teens filled out forms showing they had visited a school’s AVID display, talked with a Rotarian, learned about a Rotary program, and met someone new. Restaurant gift certificates went to the winners. The real prize is the help AVID gives hundreds of local students.

“I’m learning skills I can use in college,” said Andy Hart, a 14-year-old freshman at Everett High. He joined AVID in seventh grade at Evergreen Middle School. “It really has helped,” said Smith, the 15-year-old aspiring lawyer. Staying on task and note-taking are the most valuable lessons Smith said AVID taught him.

There are intangible benefits to being involved with the program.

“It’s the camaraderie,” said Amy Stifter, an AVID teacher at Everett High. Her AVID students stay together in the class from ninth grade through their senior year, which creates a peer group with college ambitions. Many, she said, are the first in their families to be headed to a university.

“They get lots and lots of help,” Stifter said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Rotary’s 100th

The Rotary Club of Everett held its first meeting Dec. 16, 1916. A Founders Day Luncheon, open to the public and other Rotary clubs, is planned for Dec. 13 at the Walter Price Fitness Center on the Everett Community College campus. A gala dinner will be scheduled for March 1, 2017, at Xfinity Arena. The club, which meets at noon Tuesdays at Legion Memorial Golf Course, was chartered in March 1917. Information: www.everettrotary.com

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