José Godoy, a senior at Avalon Continuation High School walked to the middle of his tiny, two-building campus where eighty percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches because of their families’ financial state.
Standing on the damp asphalt of the quad, he grinned and slammed a padded striker against a hand-held gong again and again for 10 seconds. A cheer went up from the whole school — the 120 students eating lunch around him.
“When they finish a class, we bang the gong once, and when they graduate, we let them hit the gong as much as they want,” principal Regina Awtry said.
Awtry is the principal of Avalon, a continuation school in Wilmington. the school is situated across Avalon Boulevard from Banning High School, the only major high school in the city.
“Avalon is where students go when they fail at Banning,” Awtry said.
This February, after a successful pilot program, ShareFest is starting its year-round Youth Development Academy at Avalon. We have adapted our summer program to fit the needs of Avalon, and it promises to be a life-changing experience.
Avalon is the ideal location for ShareFest to start its year-round Youth Development Academy because it will have a pointed impact on students in Wilmington. It focuses on a small group where the effect of tutoring and life training will be readily apparent.
Students have already committed to getting their lives on track by attending Avalon, and the first step is helping them graduate. Through one-on-one tutoring in a larger class, ShareFest volunteers will help teach English and basic algebra and geometry to prepare students for the California High School Exit Examination. The tutoring will help ensure more students can bang that gong, but that's just the start.
“Education isn’t just academics. It’s life-skills and character-building. It’s interwoven, and if we truly are preparing our young people to be the future leaders and the future citizens, it’s more than just book-work," Awtry said.
In addition to tutoring, ShareFest is putting every youth resource and partnership we have into motion:
- Path4Teens is the life-skills and leadership program students attended at the summer YDA, and now it's coming to Avalon. It is fun and interactive training designed to equip teenagers with a positive and practical foundation for developing a set of life-skills that facilitate healthy and productive decision-making.
- Hands on Art is another carryover from the summer YDA and will teach five art projects this year. Each project consists of an art lesson, a hands on project inspired by a particular art style or artist and a presentation from students to their piers.
- JustOne will offer a community development program to communicate the importance of caring for our surrounding communities while instilling the values of compassion, love, and relief. Students will get the chance to put this into action by participating in two JustOne initiatives: A Trashcan Can Make a Difference and the Laundry Love Project.
- A Financial Literacy Program will help students become financially aware by covering topics such as budgeting, credit cards, buying a home, cars and loans, saving and investing, and more.
- Lifetime Fitness, a course offered by Cal State Dominguez Hills, is specifically designed to fit the needs of the students at Avalon High School and will teach students how to develop a lifetime of physical activity and healthy eating habits that foster better health. Students will also earn 3 units of transferable college credit.
"We want to give these students every chance possible to succeed," Anwar Shariff, the YDA Program Director, said. "It's starts in the classroom, but it ends with creating leaders who can build a purposeful life and healthy community."
ShareFest needs tutors from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, February 1- March 12, 2010. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Anwar Shariff at Anwar@ShareFestinc.org.
If you would like to support ShareFest and the students at Avalon, please consider donating here.
Or see below to hear about one student's experience in our pilot program.