Hannah, 11th Grade, Ventura County District

“I discipline myself to work hard no matter what academic obstacle comes my way. I had little to no education freshman year, if anything it was poor since there was no money to ship books and materials to me, and I continue to struggle because of it. However, I do not use it as an excuse to not work even harder than most of the students at school.”


Hannah moved to the United States as a sophomore and enrolled at a Ventura County school district. New to the school and to the country, she found it difficult to navigate the different courses and programs that her high school offered. Despite being placed in an AP class that year, Hannah didn’t learn that she was taking AP or what that meant until a month into the school year.

“When I first heard about AP, I was still new to this school because I came in last year as a sophomore from another country. I had no knowledge of what AP, IB, CP, none of that, until about a month in when my teacher had to explain to me what AP was or how it actually is beneficial, because at first I didn’t really get that from the counselors. I was too shy and timid to ask anybody about it.”

 

When it came time to select classes for her junior year, Hannah still felt that she lacked information about AP and IB courses, their benefits, and the pre-requisites she might need for enrollment.

“A lot of the people here are long-term residents, obviously. Most kids are. So, you have the students who have established what they wanted to do already. Maybe they have parents who work here, so they’re in it and they know. And that’s the feel[ing] at least when I first came here, not to be negative about it, but everybody already knew what they want to do and if you didn’t know, then you were looked down upon, and that was something I didn’t like at first or at least with some of the students I felt it was in the atmosphere.”

“It’s just something that I wasn’t that well informed of, but I also didn’t really have the time to go and look for myself because I didn’t really know. I thought [completing an IB diploma] was something you already had to be planning for ahead and then I had different students tell me, “Well, there’s certain pre-requisites you need to have for this,” and make it seem like there’s only a certain type of student who needs to take these classes.”

 

Hannah ultimately found the information she needed about AP/IB courses when an Assistant Principal pulled her aside to have a one-on-one conversation about the AP/IB programs. With further encouragement from her English teacher, Hannah enrolled in IB Language, and AP US History for the next fall.

“[My English teacher] was encouraging me to take IB Literature and explaining a little bit more about the creative freedom I would have. I ultimately chose it and I am really happy. Even though I do enjoy the pace and even the teachers for AP, I really like the creative freedom you get with IB and how that can apply to your daily life.”

The next year, her first several weeks of school were difficult. She still found herself wondering whether she really belonged in AP/IB coursework. As it turned out, many other students were feeling the same way. When Hannah recognized this through conversations with her peers, she began to feel that she was part of a community, especially as she encountered other students with similar backgrounds to her own.

“There are kids who get a lot of support from their teachers and their parents. Their parents—they’re pushing them a lot…They’ll have parents working there, family, they’ll have parents who’ve basically planned their schedules since they were in kindergarten, what they’re going to do…For the kids who are on their own, they don’t have parents to encourage them as much. Maybe they do, but they’re working parents who maybe don’t have degrees or don’t understand the full extent of what they need to do—it’s really that sense of coming together [with those students] and figuring out with each other and working with one another.”

 

Ultimately, Hannah loved her experience in her AP/IB classes. She saw the value of AP/IB extending far beyond grades because these courses “…allow you to expand your knowledge and purely think deeply about something.” One of her favorite memories was a class field trip to the Reagan library because she felt that she was able to personally connect with her teachers.

At the end of the first semester of her junior year, she had nearly straight A’s in all of her courses. Survey data from the past two years shows that over her junior year, Hannah also expanded the number of learning mindsets with which she approaches her coursework—such as growth mindset and grit. Her educational experiences throughout the year also helped her grow her academic identity and sense of possibility. At the start of her sophomore year, she listed working in the medical field—likely as a Physician’s Assistant—as her career goal. By the end of her junior year, she had joined the science club and decided upon being a Surgeon in either Orthopedics, Trauma, or Pediatrics.

Going into her senior year, Hannah will be taking IB Biology, IB Literature, AP American Government, AP Macro Economics, AP Spanish, AP Calculus, and AP Physics. Her only regret related to AP/IB is that she wasn’t able to take more classes!

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