More than 200 Tomah High School students in the past year have participated in Advanced Placement classes.
Mary Ortner Neve, THS English teacher, said the classes are taught at a college level while students are still in high school and can earn them college credits or even skip college courses if they perform well enough on the AP tests given at the end of the school year.
Three students enrolled at the high school have received designations for the number of tests they’ve taken and the scores they received, Neve said.
Aryis Modica was named an AP Scholar, meaning she scored at a three or higher on three tests on a scale of one to five.
Cassie Carlson was designated as an AP Scholar with Honor for scoring at least a three on four or more tests.
Lauren Buss was designated as a National AP Scholar, meaning she has taken at least eight AP tests and has scored a four or five on them all.
Neve said Buss is the first student in the Tomah Area School District to achieve the honor, which is the highest designation possible.
“This is incredible considering she did this before her senior year,” Neve said. “By the time she finishes high school and takes and passes her final AP tests next May, she will probably have earned 30-40 college credits. That is 2-3 semesters worth before ever entering college.”
Buss said she was excited when she found out about the designation.
“It was pretty exciting,” she said. “The night before we got our AP test results, I know I woke up really early in the morning so I could check it out as soon as the results came out. It was like 7 a.m. on a Saturday ... I had this countdown going in my head, and it was super exciting to find out.”
Modica said she felt validated to see her scores and designation.
“You put in all that work into it and then you get that score back ... you appreciate what you did to accomplish in (those) classes,” she said.
Carlson decided to take AP classes and eventually the tests because she wanted to become valedictorian and get a GPA boost, but that changed as time went on.
“I take them now for the challenge and for the people in there because the people that take AP classes really want to be there and love to learn just like I do,” she said. “So the learning environment is a lot different, and I take them because I love to learn and they’re really cool to challenge myself.”
Buss said the college credit was part of her decision to take AP classes and tests, but she mainly took them because it seemed like the natural progression for her. She believed they would push her and help her grow academically and as a person.
“It’s just challenging yourself and preparing yourself for college,” she said. “So when you go into your college course, you’re going to know a lot of what they’re talking about even if you didn’t pass the test and you didn’t get to skip that course, you’re much more prepared for the material and you have some background knowledge going in. That’s really helpful.”
The learning environment was part of the movitation because everyone in those classes was there for the same reason.
“Everyone in that AP class is there because they want to be there; it’s not just because they’re forced to be at school; it’s because they want to challenge themselves and push themselves,” Buss said.
Modica took AP courses because they fit with how her academic sequence was set up.
“I took every single prerequisite I needed and early on. I decided I’m going to take these AP tests, I’m going to really prove myself, I’m going to strive to do my best and prepare for my future,” she said. “It’s just where you fit in, and it works out well ... you push yourself and you see the results in other classes.”
The courses are beneficial outside of the classroom, Modica said.
“In hindsight they’re not that much different than other courses, but they prepare you so much more for college and just the future in general — work space, writing skills, stuff like that,” she said.
“It prepares you with a lot of skills, even outside of the focus of the class — like study skills, focus, test taking,” she said. “All that stuff that you can get from all the courses, whether it’s chemistry or calculus, anything.”
Buss said the courses help students motivate themselves.
“A lot of the work the teacher doesn’t sit down and say we’re going to go through this stuff as a class. A lot of it is you do work out of class, and you have to study and prepare for things more than you might for a normal class,” she said.
The courses also allow students to delve deeper into topics, Carlson said.
“If you really like biology or chemistry or physics, those are basically freshman or sophomore classes, but if you’re really interested in those things or math or economics or whatever, they let you get deeper into the material that you’re interested in and look more into the field,” she said. “Even if you don’t end up taking one of those courses in college, you get more in depth into what you’re interested in.”
After high school Buss plans to study mechanical engineering. Some of her college choices include University of Wisconsin-Madison, Georgia Tech and Stanford University.
Modica plans to study forensic chemistry and will attend Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Carlson plans to study biomedical engineering and hopes to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology.