Dr. Rita McKenzie, associate professor of counseling/educational psychology and assistant dean to the School of Education at Buena Vista University (BVU), will be one of nearly 70 northwest Iowans receiving Iowa Governor's Volunteer Awards at ceremonies on Nov. 20 at the university.
McKenzie was nominated for the honor by Beau Ruleaux, assistant principal at Storm Lake High School, for her work in securing tutors for the school district's AVID program. "The AVID program is a great program and I am honored to be a part of it," says McKenzie.
AVID - which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination - focuses on the types of students who have traditionally been underrepresented in college, says Ruleaux, who is the district director for AVID. Generally, these are students in the academic "middle" (GPA 2.0-3.0) who would be the first in their family to attend college and have the desire and determination to go to college.
Storm Lake High School is the first in Iowa to offer this program, says Ruleaux. The AVID program pushes these students into the most rigorous course of study that is appropriate for each student and offers them the support and skills to be successful. Currently, 42 students are enrolled in the Storm Lake program, which they continue for all four years of high school.
For three days a week, students are enrolled in an AVID elective class where they complete a curriculum that teaches them study skills and strategies. The other two days a week AVID students are in tutorial sessions.
One of the requirements for becoming an AVID certified school is that it has a 7:1 student-to-tutor ratio, says Ruleaux. "Dr. McKenzie has been instrumental in recruiting her students at BVU to become AVID tutors," he notes. "Recruiting tutors has been one of the biggest challenges for the AVID schools that I have visited from coast to coast. Thanks to Dr. McKenzie's efforts we are truly the envy of the AVID world. We not only meet the 7:1 ratio, but we exceed it."
"What has impressed me the most about Dr. McKenzie has been her commitment to attend the tutorials on a consistent basis and to lead one of the tutorial groups," adds Ruleaux. "In my mind this speaks with volume about her passion and commitment to the success of young people. It must also be inspiring to our students to see a college professor willing to spend so much time with them."
McKenzie has also been involved in initial conversations about helping secure a funding source for the school's AVID program. "Many federal grants require that high schools partner with higher education," adds Ruleaux. "With the support of Dr. McKenzie and BVU we can now pursue grants to fully fund our program."
The award ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Anderson Auditorium in the Harold Walter Siebens Forum on the BVU campus. In addition to the individual awards, 19 groups will be honored that day. At this time, it had not been determined whether Gov. Chet Culver, his wife, Mari, or Lt. Gov. Patty Judge will present the awards at Storm Lake.
The Governor's Volunteer Award program is coordinated by the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service and the Governor's Office. BVU President Fred Moore is a former member of the commission.
The program was established in 1982 to honor and recognize volunteers for the commitment, service and time that they contribute to Iowa's government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Statewide, more than 500 volunteers were selected for awards this year.
This will be the seventh time that Buena Vista University has hosted the northwest Iowa awards ceremony. A complete list of the 2008 award recipients is available in the program booklet at www.volunteeriowa.org/awards.
"All volunteers are helping to build One Iowa by freely giving their time and talents to serve the public good," said Gov. Culver. "Lt. Governor Judge and I are honored to have this opportunity to personally thank this year's award recipients for donating their time in countless ways to improve communities across the state. We look forward to continuing our work with these dedicated Iowans so that together, we can build an unlimited future for all." Iowa consistently ranks in the top 10 states in the nation for the percentage of adults (age 16 and above) engaged in volunteering.