Brea Carrington was living the life of the popular high school student. Cheer captain. Prom queen. Theater and dance star. It was the same life that her mother remembers from her own high school experience at Moreno Valley High School.
In the classroom, Brea was also playing the same role as all of her family members did when they were her age.
“I wasn’t motivated at all and was doing the bare minimum,” Brea confessed. “I thought academics just got in the way of everything else.”
When her grades slipped, one of her teachers, Tommy Stokes, called Brea’s mother who summarily threatened to take away her extracurricular activities of cheer and dance.
“It wasn’t until my junior year that things started to ‘click’. I was starting to see older kids go to college and all I’d ever seen from the women in my family was that they would have children between the ages of 15 or 18,” Brea said. “Nobody in my family was ever thinking about college.”
As fate would have it, Mr. Stokes had recently taken over as coordinator of a nascent program at Moreno Valley High School to encourage students to think about college while in high school. The program was called AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination.
Nearly a decade later, Moreno Valley Unified School District has embraced AVID and Moreno Valley High School is now a National AVID Demonstration School—boasting the largest AVID program in the world with 629 students enrolled in 21 class sections. When the program launched in 2004, only 14 seniors from the graduating class went on to a four-year college. Now in its twelfth year, 150 AVID graduating seniors from the class of 2015 proceeded directly to 4-year universities. Currently, in the four-county inland area region that leads the program known as RIMS AVID (Riverside, Inyo, Mono, and San Bernardino County), nearly 50,000 students are enrolled in AVID at the middle and high school levels.
Mr. Stokes encouraged Brea to join AVID in 2004 and the timing was perfect according to Brea’s mother.
“I had lost her for a year and I wasn’t thinking of college for her. She was carefree and popular just like I remember being at that age. I was just hoping she would graduate and get a job,” said Bridget Carrington, Brea’s mother. “To hear Mr. Stokes say that he would help, it gave both Brea and me the motivation that maybe college would be a possibility.”
Brea did graduate from MVHS in 2008 and was accepted into five universities. She selected California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and planned to major in liberal studies and become a teacher like Mr. Stokes.
“I remember packing up the car to take Brea to college, meeting her roommate, and dropping her off in her dorm,” Bridget said. “That made it real and I remember thinking that she was really doing this college thing and I couldn’t have been more proud and honored at that moment.”
“When I arrived at CSUN, it was a big campus and I quickly realized there was nobody there to tell me to stop talking in class or anybody who cared if I was in class or passed my assignments,” Brea said. “I remember thinking that there weren’t many people there who looked like me, but I knew I needed to stay there and get started. I was very thankful for my experiences in AVID that had helped prepare me for that time.”
While a student at CSUN, she graciously hosted visiting AVID students from Moreno Valley during their Spring Break Junior Road Trip to local colleges. Brea switched majors a few times before landing on the field of business management and graduated in 2013. Her career took off quickly when she was hired as a flight attendant by Virgin Atlantic and her eyes were opened to new worlds.
“I didn’t come from a family with money, so getting to see places like London, Hong Kong, and Paris at age 23 was really special,” Brea said.
Now 25, Brea has been working as a manager at Amtrak for two years. In her job, she manages staff members who are 15-30 years her senior—a challenging position that also recruits her business management training from college and “stick-to-it” attitude implanted by the AVID principles.
“I don’t know what I would have done without AVID,” Brea said. “I am beyond grateful for those experiences. My life is far from over. It’s just beginning.”