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AVID students take off their masks

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties

Twenty students sit in a large circle, discussing human nature using a Paul Laurence poem entitled “We Wear the Mask.” The AVID students share their thoughts on why society hides their feelings.

“Everyone knows there’s something wrong, but we play the stupid game, […] like it’s bad to be different.” said Sophomore Latimer Fuller during the discussion of the poem.

This discussion, known as a Socratic Seminar, is a student-led group conversation that encourages original thought and critical thinking. It’s one of the many ways students are taught maturity.

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a 30-year old program, is a new course offered at BHS this school year. The elective class was eligible to this year’s 10th grade students who had GPAs between 2.0 and 3.5. An application was required for consideration.

“[AVID] is for the kids who don’t always get a lot of attention, for students whose parents have maybe partially gone to college.” said School and AVID Counselor Kristen Lane.

Students work on preparing for the future. In addition to talking about college plans, and even visiting universities throughout the three-year program, AVID students learn how to take Cornell-style notes, neatly arrange their binders, and how to better organize.

“AVID is about having kids work on working together, forming study groups, how to communicate, and ask questions without giving answers,” said Lane. “It’s about forming good peer tutoring groups and asking good questions. The other piece is that focus towards college. A lot of the students might be first generation [college students], there’s a lot of reasons a student might be in AVID.”

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

Beyond AVID’s preparation of students for the future, the group is a support network. Many high-schoolers lack emotional or academic support from friends and parents, but AVID can help these kids.

Students find a safe place in AVID. Through spending time with each other, AVID students are able to open up.

“AVID is like a family,”explains Sophomore Lily Kotilinek. “I know I can go to any other AVID kid and get help with homework or anything.”

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

These students can relate to the mask metaphor. The seminar is as much a reflection on personal habits as it is a discussion on human nature. While the conversation progresses, the AVID students begin to lay bare their personal feelings. Though we all wear masks, the AVID classroom is a place where students can take their masks off.

Tyler Maxson

I'm a 2013 Senior at Buffalo High School. Next year I'm going to college.

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