Freeport elementary schools focus on college and career readiness

FREEPORT, Ill. (WIFR) -- Demari Hallom is a math whiz. Even though he's only in the fourth grade, he's thinking about using his talents for his future career.

"I'm thinking about going to Highland," says Hallom. "I want to be a human biologist."

Thanks to the AVID program, Hallom and hundreds of students at Taylor Park, Empire and Blackhawk Elementary schools in Freeport are planning ahead.

"AVID is like something to get you ready for college," says the fourth grader.

It stands for Advanced, Via, Individual, Determination. The program existed in Freeport high schools and middle schools but this is the first year it's trickling down to elementary students. AVID aims to set students up early for success, pushing strong writing and organization skills. It also teaches kids about working with other students, and what they need to do now to enroll and stay enrolled in college later.

"It's preparing our students for college and career readiness," says Taylor Park Elementary Principal Brian Lamm. "Upping the rigor in our classes, giving them some strategies to be able to perform well on state assessments like the PARCC assessment."

Students are also learning a very grown-up lesson about back up plans.

"If a human biologist doesn't work out, I'm thinking about being a vet, or if that doesn't work out, I'm thinking about being a news reporter," says Hallom.

Freeport School District hopes to extend the AVID program to the remaining three elementary schools next year. The program is already in thousands of schools across the country. Program representatives say 85 percent of their students enroll in a second year of college compared to 78 percent of students nationwide who were not in an AVID program.