Madison East High School teacher Cesar Martinez told his students in a college prep program geared toward low-income students two years ago that if they all got into college, he would take them on a field trip to Washington, D.C., for their senior year trip.
In December, acceptances began to roll in from UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, Morehouse University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Maryland, among others, and as of this month, all 16 of Martinez’s seniors in the AVID program have been accepted into higher education institutions.
But the pandemic threw a wrench into Martinez’s plan to fundraise, and as of Tuesday the cohort was $19,500 short of its $20,000 goal to cover lodging and transportation for the trip.
Martinez set up a GoFundMe page for community members to donate at go.madison.com/east-avid. Students have also begun to sell snacks to classmates to raise money and plan to hold a car wash once the weather warms.
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“It’s been a blessing,” he said. “Now, senior year, seeing things come full circle and seeing students decide where they want to go to college, that’s the good stress that you want in your life as a teacher.”
But the fundraising dilemma has created a different kind of stress.
The deadline to purchase plane tickets for the class is mid-May, Martinez said, and if the class doesn’t meet its fundraising goal by then he’ll need to figure out another way to transport his students to the nation’s capital.
Usually, senior AVID trips head somewhere local, like the Wisconsin Dells, but to motivate his students, who were sophomores at the time, to begin thinking about college, Martinez opted to let the class decide where they would travel to and when as a group.
“The best place they can all think of is D.C. to celebrate Juneteenth,” he said.
Students plan to take part in Juneteenth celebrations scheduled in the city and to immerse themselves in history by visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of African Art, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Mary McLeod Bethune House and the Lincoln Memorial.
“Juneteenth represents the ‘end’ of our nation’s most horrific act and the turning over of a new (leaf),” Favor Olubi, a member of Martinez’s AVID senior class, wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Taking a trip to the nation’s Capitol to celebrate freedom in its purest form would be an incredibly profound experience, but taking that trip with the very small group of people that we’ve had the opportunity to grow with for four years is even more.”
AVID, which stands for Advancement via Individual Determination, is an in-school academic support program for students in grades 9-12 to prepare them for post-secondary education. Students in the AVID program remain together as a cohort throughout high school, and the program’s goal is to level the playing field for minority, low-income and other students without a college tradition in their families.