"It was really hard at first."

High School Success, Student Voices | 07/19/2019

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Director, Stand for Children Washington

Celina has been the football manager for all four years of high school. She’s ready to graduate but she’s nervous about the change. She stepped out of her AP Government class during the last month of school to chat with me about her experience in advanced classes at Lincoln High School. 

In Tacoma, every student is automatically enrolled in the next most rigorous course that they’re qualified for in that subject, which has resulted in fully three-quarters of the student body taking at least one dual-credit option this year. 25% of students take AP classes, and Celina is one of them. In 2019, Washington became the first state in the country to require this policy at every district in the state.

How many AP classes are you taking?
I’m in 4 AP classes now. I’ve been in AP classes all four years. I’m in them because I like challenging myself. In AP, I’m exposed to college-level learning. Teachers have high expectations. In non-AP classes, they’re more laid-back. 

Have you always enjoyed the challenge?
When I took an AP Geography class my freshman year, I wanted to opt out because it was really hard at first and I didn’t know what to expect. It was my worst grade freshman year, actually. Before I came into high school, I just heard about AP but didn’t know what to expect. 

The transition from middle to high school was also really hard for me. I was really shy (I’m not now – high school has made me an extrovert) and I didn’t know a lot of people or talk to a lot of new people. 

What would’ve helped you more as a student?
I wish I’d known more about time management. How to balance friendship, family, school, and activities. Before high school, you don’t realize how easy you have it before you have to deal with stress. 

I also think if students had the opportunity to be more expressive with teachers, that would be helpful. You can go through all four years here without having a relationship with a teacher. Sometimes you need an adult to talk to, not one of your friends.

Do you have any advice for students coming into high school?
You’re only a freshman once. Make it count. Freshman year is the foundation of your next four years.

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m going to University of Washington - Tacoma next year to major in BioMed. I want to help people in some way. My mom didn’t have a chance to go to school - she immigrated from Vietnam - so she’s really supportive of my education. 

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Students like Celina 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 her 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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