AP For All: An Interview with Brooke Senior Ariane Guerra

Brooke Newsletter

Ariane’s Perspective On APs

Research shows taking an Advanced Placement (AP) exam increases the likelihood of graduating college in four years by 9 percentage points. However, access to these courses is not equitable; students from low-income families and students of color are less likely than their peers to take APs (see more below). As we prepare Brooke High students for college, we believe access to rigorous AP courses is mission critical. Brooke High School offers 10 AP courses and requires all students to take at least three AP courses to graduate. We sat down with Ariane Guerra, a member of Brooke High’s first graduating senior class, to talk about how APs are preparing her for college. Ariane told us:

Can you introduce yourself?

I’m Ariane Guerra, and I’m a member of the Class of 2020 at Brooke High.

How many APs have you taken at Brooke High?

By the time I graduate, I’ll have taken seven APs* at Brooke. Before this year, I took:

  • AP Computer Science Principles (CSP)
  • AP Calculus (Calc)
  • AP Language and Composition (Lang)
  • AP U.S. History (APUSH)

This year I’m taking:

  • AP Biology (Bio)
  • AP Statistics (Stats)
  • AP Literature (Lit)

Everyone is taking an AP at Brooke. We’re getting college credit, building habits and skills to succeed in college, and I’m grateful for that.

*Abbreviations to help you speak senior!

Why did you choose these classes?

APs are part of the curriculum, so I didn’t always have an option because that is what is expected of us. I’m thankful for that because I want opportunities to challenge myself. I would probably choose these classes myself anyways.

This year as a senior, I got to choose all of my classes. Since I want to go into the STEM/ medical field, AP bio was a great choice. I had the option of taking AP Lit or an English elective called Hyphenated Visions. Based on how well I did last year in AP Lang, I knew I could be successful in AP Lit, so I took the challenging course.

Signing up for AP Stats was important because I’ll have to take a stats class in college, so it broadened my math knowledge and will directly prepare me for my next step. Stats can definitely be applied to work, it’s really cool to think about what statisticians are doing in the real world. Each class is an adventure, you never know what the data will lead you to. You never know what you will discover in a stats class!

How are APs different to other classes?

First, the content is college level. Second, you have to do a lot of the work outside of the classroom. You have to do your own work, it isn’t handed to you, which is a lot like college. For example, in AP Lit class we sit in a circle to discuss the reading. You have to come to class knowing the material if you want to participate in the discussion, you really can’t hide in that class. You doing the work and higher level content differentiates these classes.

How have you changed as a student because you took AP classes?

The growth I’ve made mentally is the biggest one. After getting a good score on the AP Lang exam, I realized I really was capable of achieving at a college level. I like that you get to learn the material and an opportunity to prove it in APs.

Classwork is also different. The other day AP Bio was a lecture class, and it totally felt like a college environment. I knew I had to take the notes to take in knowledge. That night, I reviewed my notes from the lecture and looked up anything that was confusing in my textbooks. It’s up to us to review material from that day and synthesize it with the next reading and to reach out for help if you can’t find the answer yourself.

What is your workload like when taking APs?

Taking three APs plus an intense science elective my senior year is a lot to manage because each class requires so much work. Sometimes I lose motivation because the content is so hard. When that happens, I go to office hours and reach out with questions.

How do you use office hours?

Knowing how to use office hours is a big one! Most of the time, I sign myself up for office hours (not my teachers). I’ll bring my questions from the work I did the night before to get clarification on a topic, clear up misconceptions I can’t figure out from my notes, or work on problems the teacher to prep for the next class. You can also text or email about homework. Figuring out how to take advantage of the 1-on-1 help is really amazing.

Knowing that in college there will be office hours where you can be proactive about your learning, when professors are available just for you, will prepare me well for college.

Learn More About APs

Quick Facts on Access to AP Courses

  • Students of Color in Massachusetts have limited access to AP courses compared to their peers. Only 15% of AP tests in MA are taken by Black and Latinx students, even though they make up 30% of the student population.
  • On the 2019 AP Computer Science Principles exam, only four schools (including Brooke) in the state of Massachusetts supported Black students to take this test. Brooke High ranked #1 in the state for number of AP Computer Science Principles exams taken and ranked #1 for AP CSP exams passed by Black students, #2 for tests passed by Latinx students, and #3 for tests passed by female students.

What We’re Reading

  • The Years That Matter Most by Paul Tough draws on new research to reveal how the landscape of higher education has shifted in recent decades, especially how the system is designed to protect the privileged and leave everyone else behind.
  • I was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t The Hard Part by Anthony Abraham Jack is an essay on the hardships he faced as a low-income college student, how those experiences paved the way for his book The Privileged Poor, and how to change the inequitable systems still facing students today.
  • Advanced Placement Exams: The Test Itself by Stig Leschly provides a beginners guide to Advanced Placement exams and courses, access to the content, and why the rigorous content is so valuable to high school students.