AVID Program Benefits UA International Students and Tucson Middle Schoolers


Martial artists turned flips, musicians played exotic instruments, and artists painted!

It wasn’t a typical Friday afternoon for a select group of students at Doolen Middle School in Tucson. Instead of attending regular classes, they were introduced to an array of colorful Chinese culture, helping to strengthen their international expertise. The demonstration was part of the AVID Global Experience, developed by The University of Arizona Office of Global Initiatives (OGI).

The program brings UA international students to Doolen to share knowledge of their home country and why they chose to attend the UA.

“The students deliver globally-focused presentations to the middle schoolers a few times each year,” said Noelle Sallaz, Associate Director of International Student Development at OGI. “The presentations are all unique—one international student presented on climate change in Bangladesh, while another showed middle school students Sesame Street in Arabic.”

This semester, the middle schoolers were introduced to the UA Confucius Institute (CIUA), which provides Chinese language, culture, and health resources to the campus and larger community.

“Inviting the CIUA to participate in the AVID Global Experience was a natural fit. The CIUA provides an engaging look into the Chinese culture through various artistic mediums, with something for everyone,” said Erin Chadd, Director of Special Projects for OGI.

A collaboration between the UA and the Hanban, a Chinese public institution committed to providing Chinese language resources, the CIUA prides itself on promoting cultural exchange. Students at Doolen got to experience this first-hand with displays of traditional Chinese music, martial arts, and painting.

“Under the instruction of a CIUA teacher, the students painted pictures of pandas using rice paper and dye,” said Stacey Buchman, a SEVIS Compliance Coordinator with OGI. “They were focused on creating beautiful artwork and had fun doing so. They really appreciated the cultural experience.”

With more than 350 Confucius Institutes worldwide, the CIUA is proud to be located at a top-ranked research university and appreciates the supportive community.

“Our mission is to enhance people’s understanding and appreciation of the Chinese language and cultural heritage,” said Dr. Zhao Chen, Director of CIUA. “By offering demonstrations at schools, we enrich the lives of students by helping them embrace other cultures.”

The AVID Global Experience also proves valuable to UA international students.

“The middle school students have the opportunity to ask questions after the presentations, so this gives international students the chance to learn what students in the U.S. want to know about their culture,” said Sallaz. “They also get to visit a diverse middle school in Tucson, learn about the education system in the U.S., and sharpen their presentation skills by speaking to a younger audience.”

The concept to bring international students into classrooms was born from the larger Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) initiative, a national program geared toward middle school students.

“AVID’s mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society,” Sallaz explained. “It was a perfect opportunity for OGI to partner with an AVID classroom at Doolen Middle School to create the AVID Global Experience.”

The AVID middle school students, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college, train for rigorous courses and participate in programs that give them a global perspective. Cate Wilcox, the AVID teacher and coordinator at Doolen, helps students broaden their horizons with an impressive energy.

“This program gives first-generation college students an edge in planning for college and a career. It gives them skills for honors courses and to prepare for college,” said Wilcox.

A former photographer, Wilcox assumed leadership of the AVID program at Doolen by chance. “This program actually found me! I came in as a substitute and the AVID program approached Doolen. The principal said he had the perfect person in mind for the job, and it’s been the best job I’ve ever had!”

For more information about the AVID Global Experience, visit the International Student Services website: https://global.arizona.edu/international-students/avid-global-experience.