A group of students who might have stumbled over obstacles celebrated their own determination and a family of friends and educators who propelled them onward.

The Killeen Independent School District AVID program honored 157 seniors from the district’s four high schools for accumulating 365 college admission acceptances and $3.3 million in scholarship offers.

Appropriately, the school district’s first academic signing ceremony took place Thursday on the campus of Central Texas College in the Anderson Campus Center.

As students arrived, they signed their name and the college they plan to attend on large white boards specific to their high school. To conclude the ceremony, the students presented the signed boards to their principals, who handed each student an AVID coin.

Advancement Via Individual Determination is an elective college readiness course offered at all KISD’s middle and high schools. It aims to “close the achievement gap” by providing a system of mentoring and tutoring and urging habits of success and challenge in learning in the classroom and beyond.

Ronald Clark of Killeen High School said he made good grades before signing up for AVID, but he credited the program for boosting him to a full academic scholarship to Baylor University. He is a Gates Millennium Scholar with 13 college acceptance letters and a myriad of scholarship offers.

For his AVID senior project, he led a group of peers to organize a series of informational stations for Manor Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders centered on SAT and ACT preparation.

Taylor Love of Ellison High School said she struggled with apathy toward school and questioned her own abilities.

Now, she’s in the top 8 percent of her graduating class and headed to Stephen F. Austin State University on a academic scholarship. “We’re a big family,” she said of AVID. Her teachers pushed her to take more rigorous courses. “They helped me see my potential,” she said.

Aaliyah Poe of Harker Heights High School credited AVID for equipping her for future success and molding her into a leader. She said mentors and tutors “worked with me in my lowest lows and my highest highs.”

Jeffrey Peters of Shoemaker High School said his mother convinced him to try AVID. “I started to see that I could learn,” he said. “Now I’m an AVID Greywolf armed with the tools of success.”

A voice from the past, KISD AVID alum Quentin Sterling charged the current seniors to apply their skills to a new stage of challenges.

Sterling, on the verge of earning a degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor after seven years of schooling told his story, how poor habits threatened his future.

His single mother raised him in a one-bedroom apartment that held eight people and often limited food.

Administrators at Fairway Middle School and later Killeen High School funneled Sterling into AVID, but he said his own bad habits held him back. Though an All-State linebacker, he entered college at NAIA Valley City State University in North Dakota because he didn’t have the test scores Division I schools require.

In college, he maintained a GPA just high enough to remain eligible. Later, upon returning to Killeen following a severe knee injury and stint in the U.S. Army, Sterling found he had only 12 college credits after three-and-a-half years of college.

“D’s don’t transfer,” he said to the students repeatedly, urging them to attend class and study even though many college professors won’t require it or even suggest it.

In spite of personal obstacles, Sterling said the note taking and organization skills and especially his early mentors pushed him to finally succeed at CTC and then UMHB where he has a 3.2 GPA and is scheduled to graduate.

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