Cecilia, 10th Grader, Southern California

“Teachers and peers see your grades, and say, ‘Oh, you do really good, you should consider AP,’ and you take that advice because you know them on a personal level and you trust them.”


Cecilia had heard about AP in middle school and was interested in taking higher level classes to challenge herself. She entered 9th grade with a 3.43 GPA and an interest in mechanical engineering, but she became ambivalent about taking AP courses. She didn’t feel she knew enough about the AP classes and was concerned about being successful. Despite her clear college aspirations, she wondered if she really belonged in college and already felt like she could use more support in her non-AP classes.

“I wish teachers knew that I could use more help and that sometimes I need a support boost!”

 

In addition to worrying about the support she received, Cecilia heard negative things about AP, noting “people say, ‘Oh, it’s so hard. It’s going to keep you up at night.’”

When Cecilia’s high school partnered with Equal Opportunity Schools, teachers and staff were supported to identify students missing from AP courses. Cecilia began to receive encouragement to take AP from teachers and students that she trusted.

Cecilia signed up for AP World History, but she noticed barriers that other students still faced to accessing AP—language and expectation barriers—that had nothing to do with their potential.

“A lot of AP classes, you don’t really see people who are foreign. Maybe language is an obstacle that they have to face. Also, people put them down. Sometimes people experience that in their families like, ‘Oh, you’re not smart enough.’”

 

When she started her AP class, Cecilia sometimes wondered if she belonged. But, by the end of the year, she felt at home in AP because she had peers she could connect with and teachers who were approachable and understanding.

“I was really glad I took that AP class. I’ve developed time management and organization more, so it helps me to finish my work.”

 

Over the past two years, Cecilia’s Southern California high school has worked with Equal Opportunity Schools to expand AP access to its predominantly (92 percent) Latino/a student population. Over those two years, access has expanded considerably. In 2014-15, 33 percent of Latino/a students participated in at least one AP class. In 2016-17, over 42 percent participated and 88 percent of first-time AP Latino/a students passed their AP courses.

 

*Per FERPA, names have been changed to protect students’ identities.