Mary Catherine Swanson


Mary Catherine Swanson 2

In this interview, Mary Catherine Swanson, Founder of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) speaks about the origins of AVID, her commitment to equity-related issues, and her passion for serving historically underrepresented youth.

As described on the AVID website, AVID is a global nonprofit organization that operates with one guiding principle: Hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support, and they will rise to the challenge. AVID’s kindergarten through higher education system brings research-based curriculum and strategies to students each day that develop critical thinking, literacy, and math skills across all content areas

Mary Catherine’s commitment to AVID began in 1980 with one teacher in one classroom. AVID began with Mary Catherine’s belief that all students could be successful academically if they worked hard, took ownership of their learning, and had access to the skills needed to complete the rigorous course that would prepare them for four-year universities.

Today AVID impacts more than 1.5 million students in 46 states and 16 other countries and territories. AVID’s focus on academic success for historically underrepresented students is significant. AVID 2014 seniors outpaced the national average of enrolling in either a two- or four-year college the first fall term after high school. Further AVID graduates’ persistence into year two colleges averages at a rate of 85% in comparison with the U.S. national average 78%.

Among Mary Catherine’s other successes are her 20-year teaching career as an English teacher and her many recognitions and awards including: A+ Award for Reaching the Goals of America from the U.S. Department of Education, the EXCEL Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the University of San Diego Remarkable Leader in Education recognition. Additionally, she was named America’s Best Teacher in 2001 by CNN/Time Magazine and is the only public school teacher to have won the Pioneering Achievement in Education from the Charles A. Dana Foundation in New York.