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First class of Winona Area Public Schools AVID students graduate Friday
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First class of Winona Area Public Schools AVID students graduate Friday


The first class of Winona Area Public Schools’ Advancement Via Individual Determination program students are graduating Friday.

The AVID program, which comes in the form of elective courses for credits that help teach students key skills that advance their ability to succeed in their education, started in the WAPS middle school in the 2016-17 school year and in the WAPS high school in the 2017-18 school year.

The local opportunity is currently in about 7,500 schools.

During the classes, skills learned include categories such as writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading. Students also have the opportunity to go on trips, such as college visits.

Shannon Helgeson, instructional coach and Winona Senior High School AVID building coordinator, told the Winona Daily News in 2019: “AVID’s mission is to identify the tools that each student needs in their student toolbox so they can be successful in school, and also be prepared to be competitive in a four-year university.”

Students in the class are those who are highly capable to succeed in school but may have been struggling a bit.

Now, the senior class in the program are celebrating their successes as they leave the district with the knowledge they gained from AVID in tow.

“We could not be more thrilled or excited for the progress that they’ve made in their future plans,” Helgeson told the school board last week.

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“The last four years have been a real honor in getting to know our AVID students and witness them grow while helping to put out some daily fires that come with adolescence and prepare them for their unique futures outside of WAPS,” AVID counselor Courtney Dahlby in a statement to the board.

“I have also had the opportunity to work with our talented AVID-trained teachers while facilitating AVID guidance lessons and gain some eye-opening classroom experiences along the way. This doesn’t happen often for high school counselors, so it has been a challenge and a really enjoyable experience to reach so many students at one time,” Dahlby said.

Hunter Schellhas, an AVID senior, said in a video message to the board about how he’s benefited from the program, “I feel like I’m prepared for what college is about to throw and more well organized and more disciplined.”

Another senior AVID member, Aidan Kessel, told the board through a pre-recorded video, “AVID has had a very big impact on my life. I’m very thankful I stayed in the program. I wouldn’t be where I am today without AVID.”

Kessel said that the program has taught him how to stay organized and take Cornell notes — a specific outline for organizing notes onto a page.

He said his grades improved after joining AVID and he became more motivated about school.

After the presentation about AVID, Steve Schild said that he recalled the time when the program was just in discussion and how it was a bit challenging to start in the district due to many questions being brought up.

He said the graduating class is proof that being persistent can lead to positive opportunities.

The goal, according to Helgeson, is to have the school as a whole further implement the same goals of empowering students and supporting their learning skills and future plans like the AVID program’s goals lays out.

For more information about the AVID program, visit the Winona Area Public Schools website at or the AVID program website at


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