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San Marcos’ Accelerated Academic Program Helps Students Reach New Highs

The application window will open March 15, coinciding with the eighth-grade registration process

This year, San Marcos High School launched the Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment (AAPLE) as part of a districtwide initiative to meet the needs and interests of all students.

AAPLE is a four-year course of study in which select students follow a comprehensive curriculum combining the most rigorous course offerings — Honors, Advanced Placement, SBCC and university — in the county.

AAPLE remains unique to San Marcos because of the school’s “academic focus block schedule.” The block schedule, also referred to as the “university schedule” by Erik Nielsen, AAPLE director, allows students to take yearlong classes in a semester, much like students at universities on the semester system.

“AAPLE allows students to do more,” said Eric Burrows, California State Teacher of the Year in 2005. “Students are able to take two years of science, math, English or social studies in one year, expanding educational opportunities and creating advantages in college admissions.”

In its inaugural year, AAPLE enrolled a freshmen cohort that matriculated through a college-focused pathway that created a cohesive cohort environment for talented learners. Jamie DeVries, an Advanced Placement economics teacher at San Marcos, is eager to participate as cohort teacher in the future.

“I am so excited about this program,” DeVries said. “It is unprecedented in this community, and kids and parents are really energized about it. Kids Helping Kids is just one example of what students can do if given the opportunity.”

DeVries’ AP economics class recently raised about $170,000 for Unity Shoppe as part of their annual Kids Helping Kids class fundraiser.

AAPLE provides students with a broad, general background in many academic areas at a level appropriate to highly academically skilled learners. It is about preparation, rigor, leadership, cultural experience, philanthropy and enrichment. High school is an optimal time for students to investigate interest areas. For those students who have narrowed their vocational focus, programs such as the Health Academy at San Marcos, MADD or VADA at Santa Barbara High School, or the Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos, are viable options. However, for adept students who continue to explore their academic interests through rigorous curriculum and enrichment opportunities while strategizing for college admission, AAPLE serves as an incredible educational opportunity.

In four years, AAPLE will include 30 freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors — a total of 120 students. AAPLE seeks to expand opportunities for high-achieving, underrepresented students seeking the rigor of advanced coursework. The program is making concerted efforts to encourage high-achieving underrepresented eighth-grade students to apply.

The program prepares students to face challenges and choices that will meet the complexities of today’s world, support a lifelong commitment to learning and encourage students to make use of their potential.

Students receive a broad spectrum of opportunities to extend and enrich the classroom curriculum through guest speakers, theater, summer programming, study abroad opportunities and field trips. Examples this school year included attending Appalachian Spring and Romeo and Juliet at The Granada, the Museum of Natural History’s “Night at the Museum,” Santa Cruz Island, El Capitan Canyon, the American Braille Institute guest speakers and participation in community academic competitions — all the while creating cohesiveness through team-building excursions throughout the year.

The application window will open March 15, coinciding with the eighth-grade registration process at San Marcos High School. The AAP informational night will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in the auditorium at San Marcos, 4750 Hollister Ave. All interested parents, students and community members are invited to attend. Click here for more information about the program.

— Erik Nielsen is the AAPLE director at San Marcos High School.

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