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Students provide support as CHS expands AP programs

With an increase in first-time AP students, juniors and seniors volunteer to serve as peer mentors

Centerville High School students are seeing more opportunities for Advanced Placement (AP) courses as administrators and teachers work to expand course offerings in an effort to match students’ interests in high-level content.

In 2019, the district began a partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), whose mission is to ensure students of color and low-income students have equitable access to academically intense high school programs. CHS and EOS surveyed students and teachers about a wide variety of topics, including future goals, current interests, perceived academic strengths, possible barriers to learning, and trusted adults on staff.

In February of this year, CHS hosted its first AP Fair for interested students to learn more about advanced classes by talking with teachers and other students. The high school is offering 22 AP courses during the 2020-21 school year – four more classes than last year – and student registration has grown by 32 percent.

With this increase in first-time AP students, 30 juniors and seniors volunteered to serve as peer mentors to help create a welcoming and supportive learning experience. The AP Mentors group recently reached out to first-time AP students to determine what types of support would be the most helpful.

“I think the mentors will help in the crucial step for students transitioning to AP for the first time,” said Khyati Shinghal, a junior at CHS who is part of the AP Mentors team. “I believe this group will be the most helpful in alleviating emotional rather than academic stress. I think it makes a big difference for a student to know that what they are feeling is normal, to understand that there is a whole group of students behind them, rooting for them. My goal as an individual mentor is to give a first time AP student the confidence that someone thinks that they can do it.”

Fellow mentor June Powell, a senior at CHS, added that the group is providing help to any student who reaches out, whether that’s through a Zoom meeting or resources such as AP-approved flashcards and study books

Seven of the 30 CHS AP Mentors, including Shinghal and Powell, are also part of a national RISE (Radically Imagining School Equity) student equity team, which was created by EOS to empower students to think about how they want to transform school culture. This month, those seven students attended the first of four virtual RISE gatherings.

“The AP Mentors were all students who indicated a strong interest and desire to support their peers’ sense of belonging in upper level courses at CHS,” said Ellen Kibby, the district’s Secondary Gifted Coach for English Language Arts and Social Studies, who advises the group along with high school teachers Jodie Gallagher and Sherry Shuman. “Their ideas, drive and commitment throughout what was notably a very challenging end and then start to the school year is inspiring!”

Centerville High School is part of Centerville City Schools, which serve about 8,000 students in Centerville and Washington Township in southwest Ohio, offering a variety of educational programs to a diverse student population. The district operates 13 school buildings, as well as two preschools and a bus facility accommodating and servicing more than 120 buses that also transports daily to 15 public and 20 non-public schools. Visit www.centerville.k12.oh.us for more information.

Photo: Students learn more about Advanced Placement courses during an AP Fair at CHS last February.