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New college readiness high school set to open in Phoenix

(Photo: Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — A new high school focused on getting students ready for college is opening in Phoenix this fall.

The Phoenix Union-Wilson College Prep Academy is being called the first of its kind. It’ll provide students the same strategies used by a college readiness program called Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID for short.

“The ultimate goal of our school is to have 100 percent of our kids not only get into college but graduate from college and not pay a single dime,” said Keoni Dang, the school’s principal.

Typically, AVID students come from low-income families and are the first in their families to attend college. The program encourages them to take rigorous classes as a way to help them prepare for college and provides them tutoring. It also teaches them the steps they need to take to get into college.

There are more than 6,200 schools across the country, including 155 schools in Arizona, that offer the AVID program to a select group of students in the form of an elective class. None of the participating schools offer the AVID program to the entire school. The Phoenix Union-Wilson College Prep Academy will be the first.

“Here, every single student will be an AVID student,” Dang said.

One of those students will be 14-year-old Javier Cerpa, who’s been in the AVID program for two years.

“I want to continue with the program so that they can help me go to college,” Cerpa said when asked why he wants to attend the Phoenix Union-Wilson College Prep Academy. He added that he wants to attend college so he can pursue “a great career.”

The school is currently enrolling ninth-grade students for the fall. Its goal is to open in August with about 150 freshmen. It will add a new freshmen class each year and will eventually grow to about 400 students.

Dang said he likes that the Phoenix Union-Wilson College Prep Academy offers a “small school environment.”

“It’ll help us make sure that there are no kids slipping through the cracks,” he said.

He added the school is the latest addition to the Phoenix Union High School District’s list of small, specialty schools. The lists includes the Phoenix Union Bioscience High School, the Franklin Police and Fire High School, and the Phoenix Coding Academy.