"I thought AP classes were super hard."

Dual Credit Equity, High School Success, Student Voices | 07/01/2019

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Director, Stand for Children Washington

With the AP Government exam behind them and graduation a month away, a group of seniors assembled the desks of Nate Bowling’s classroom into two distinct groups to create an aisle leading to the podium. After brief instructions from their teacher, the fifth period Speaker of the House gaveled their mock congress into order.

After the first round of debates on some proposed legislation about transportation, Nate introduced me to Giovonni, who walked with me to the nearby breezeway to chat about his experience in advanced classes at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. 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.

Giovonni is the only child of his family in Tacoma, and he’s wearing a Georgetown t-shirt to school, where he’ll be going to college in the fall on a full scholarship as a football player.

How many AP classes are you taking?
Right now, I’m taking AP Literature, Government, and Stats. I’ve taken AP classes every year except for freshman year. That’s just how it is here.

What did you think about advanced classes like this before you took them?
Before I took AP classes, I thought they were super hard. But they’re not too crazy. They just make you actually work. There’s a reason for the homework. It’s not just busy work, but it ties to the next day in class. It’s all laid out and tied together.

How do you spend your time outside of class?
I play football, lift weights, and play video games when I can. Football is like Key Club (a community service organization) here. We went down to the mission and we host football camps for younger kids. We give back to the people who gave so much to us. 

How has football impacted your life as a student?
Before I took AP classes, I did just enough to get by. Our football coach taught me about complacency. That if you’re not progressing, you’re regressing. He helps us see the bigger picture of how to succeed through school. When I was a freshman he put me on varsity. He saw I had character and worked hard, so he invested in me. 

He shares what he’s going through and has our teammates go up in front of the team and tell their story. It’s a brotherhood. He says if you don’t know the person next to you, you can’t understand them. I now feel like I know them personally. He helped me better understand people and how to build relationships. 

Have you felt supported by your teachers in doing both sports and advanced classes?
All my teachers have believed in me. You just have to put in the effort. Once I tried, I realized it was attainable. I got all As in my classes and I was like “I could have been doing this all along!”

What advice would you give to students who are nervous about AP classes?
Stay in it and see if you like it. AP isn’t for everybody. So, be honest with yourself and challenge yourself.

What do you want to do next?
I want to help people in any way I can. I want to go to the NFL and build buildings in Tacoma or own a business. I want to help people and play football.

My family has been supportive of what I want to do. I got to where I’m at now by people helping me. I want to give that back. I know that I’ve got people to support me. That’s why I want to help others, so they won’t be discouraged to do what they want to do.

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