"I knew I'd be in AP classes."

College & Career Readiness, Dual Credit Equity, High School Success, Student Voices | 07/24/2019

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Director, Stand for Children Washington

Gabriel started his senior year with four AP classes. But since he already had his science credit, he decided to drop AP Biology and focus on his other three: AP Government, AP Literature, and AP Calculus. He considers himself lucky because going into high school he had his older brother as a resource to prepare him for what it would take in advanced classes.

A Tacoma native, Gabriel had just returned from being a camp counselor at a YMCA camp for fifth graders when we sat down to talk. After a week of kayaking, squid dissection, communication skill-building, and games, he was back in Nate Bowling’s third-period AP Government class with a month to go until graduation. He took a break from the passionate mock congress session happening that day to talk to me about his experience in advanced classes. 

Did you think you’d be in AP classes going into high school?

Yes, because when my brother was a junior they made it automatic, so I knew I’d be in them when I got to high school [Tacoma implemented an Academic Acceleration automatic enrollment policy for all advanced classes in 2013]. He told me that they’d be harder than my other classes, so I knew what I was getting into.

Are they harder?
AP classes are harder because you’ve got to think about what you’re doing in class, even over winter break. In other classes they don’t give you homework that you have to think about, but in AP classes, you can’t change the date of the AP exam. You’ve got to fit it all in.

This year was hard because of the teacher strikes and the winter storms, so we lost three weeks of learning and had to cram it in, but Mr. Bowling didn’t make it feel rushed.

What other activities do you participate in at school?
I do football, wrestling, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Government - I’m the treasurer this year and have been in it for all four years. Also Key Club!

What’s next for you after graduation?
I’m going to University of Puget Sound, where my brother goes. I want to major in Business Marketing or Business Administration with a minor in Communications. I like to talk to people! I’ve been the top discount card seller on the football team over the last three years. I like to sell stuff and I know how to code switch, so I figured I could do that.

Some of my favorite professional athletes like Kobe Bryant have gone on to invest in their own businesses. They put in money and invest it and get money out of it. I want to learn how to do that.

What advice would you give to other students who are going into AP classes?
Pay attention and do your homework. Really, that’s for all classes. Our homework informs what we’re doing every day, so if you don’t do it and you come to class, you’ll get picked to talk and then you’ll look stupid because you don’t know what’s going on and then Mr. Bowling will get mad [he says with a smile].


Tacoma was the second district in the state to implement an Academic Acceleration policy in 2013 that automatically enrolls students into the next most rigorous class they’re qualified for in any given subject, including Advanced Placement courses. In 2019, Washington became the first state in the country to require this policy at every district in the state.

Students like Gabriel who enroll in advanced classes are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college. Stand for Children Washington is committed to supporting more remarkable students like him on the way to their dreams by advocating for innovative policies like Academic Acceleration that change school culture and improve the equity of opportunities available to Washington students.

Want to join us in standing up for students in public schools? Become a member today and partner with us to make change together.

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