A class of their own

A group of Northeast High School students became the first group of students in the school district to graduate the AP Capstone program.

For 14 recently graduated students of Northeast High School, just earning a high school diploma wasn’t enough.

After two years of vigorous courses, those students became the first in the School District of Philadelphia to complete the Advanced Placement Capstone program.

Northeast is the only school in the district that offers the complete program, which consists of two year-long courses, AP Seminar and Research. The Seminar course teaches students to deliver TED Talk-style presentations about real-world topics, while Research has the students study and contribute to areas where a research gap exists.

Nine of the students earned the AP Capstone Diploma, given to students with college-eligible scores in their AP exams and at least four other content areas. The remaining five students earned an AP Seminar and Research certificate after earning college-eligible scores on their Research and Seminar exams.

For student Katelynn McFadden, who earned the AP Capstone Diploma, the courses were stressful, but worth it.

“Because of this program and the courses you have to take to get the full diploma, I’m going to go into college four credits away from being a sophomore,” she said.

McFadden’s research tackled how gender disparities impact women in the workforce, incorporating factors like pregnancy and maternity leave. Students were encouraged to pursue topics that are real-world issues today.

“These are important topics in the global research community, and you have added to that conversation,” said Dianna Frank, director of K-12 services for the College Board. “Hold on to these skills because they are essential to your success in college and far beyond.”

Topics the students researched included technology’s impact on parent/child relationships, teenage definitions of mental health, the media’s impact on racial self-perception and deaf culture perception in the media.

According to Frank, these students were among 6,600 globally to achieve these awards. Over 2 million students participated in AP exams this past spring.

Their success were recognized at a ceremony at the school district Education Center on July 31.

“If I was asked to speak here two years ago, I probably would have refused because of my stage fright,” said student Silvani Amin, who received her AP Capstone diploma at the ceremony. Amin is a first-generation student in her family who didn’t know what AP classes were.

“I can say that the academic challenge the classes provided not only broadened what I knew, but also made me an open-minded person,” she said.

Maria Barnett, AP coordinator for Northeast, talked about how much the school had grown in the past decade.

“We raised the expectations for the teachers who teach those AP classes, and for the students who take them,” she said.

Ten years ago, 10 percent of the exams taken at Northeast produced college-eligible scores, Barnett said. This year, 53 percent produced college-eligible scores. In 2011, Northeast produced 11 AP scholars, which means they achieved a certain score on AP exams. This year, the school produced 59 AP scholars.

“And we’re not done yet,” Barnett said.

Officials at the ceremony included Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite, Mayor Jim Kenney, Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson and members Julia Danzy, Dr. Maria McColgan and Dr. Chris McGinley, and incoming Northeast principal Omar Crowder.

“The students we are honoring today have chosen to take some of the most rigorous course loads imaginable, and as a result are extremely well-prepared as they head to college this fall,” Hite said. “These students are not only bright and immensely curious about the world around them, but they have also demonstrated the tenacity needed to overcome adversity.”

The students were collectively awarded more than $500,000 in college scholarships. They will continue their education at colleges including University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, Lehigh, Pennsylvania State University, Arcadia, Albright and the University of Maine. ••