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San Marcos High School AAPLE Academy Host Information Night

The AAPLE Academy at San Marcos High School takes juniors on an East Coast Leadership Trip, during which they visit historical sites as well as many private universities
The AAPLE Academy at San Marcos High School takes juniors on an East Coast Leadership Trip, during which they visit historical sites as well as many private universities (San Marcos AAPLE Academy photo)

The Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment (AAPLE) at San Marcos High School hosted an information night last week that attracted more than 200 students and parents.

Families attended to learn more about the selective four-year academy, which focuses on rigorous academics, leadership development, community service and enrichment opportunities.

The AAPLE Academy currently has 132 students in all four grades, allowing a maximum of just 33 new students each year.

“Students who excel in the academy are willing to work hard, have proven leadership experience, are community participants, and possess a thirst for learning,” said Erik Nielsen, a former San Marcos graduate and director of the academy.

Nielsen created the AAPLE Academy five years ago to offer motivated students hands-on leadership and learning opportunities in a demanding academic environment.

“Rigorous academics are central to the AAPLE curriculum,” said Nielsen, who explained that AAPLE students are required to take a minimum of eight AP (advanced placement) classes by the time they graduate.

The advanced academics are balanced by enrichment opportunities that extend the classroom experience. Enrichment programs include theater productions, museum exhibitions, seminars, notable speaker series and local field trips. One of the most anticipated trips is the junior year East Coast Leadership Trip, visiting historical sites and universities.

“The AAPLE academic pathway is extremely challenging, but also highly rewarding,” said Colin Welsh, 12th-grade AAPLE president who was just one of 10 student speakers at the information night.

Claire Gilmore, a 12th-grade student, said, “AAPLE’s leadership and service focus allows me to see the importance of serving the community and participating in activities at San Marcos High.” Sophomore Gaby Goldberg, who oversees the academy’s Cyber Tutorial program, commented, “The experience has afforded me an opportunity to interact with the community in a way that truly impacts other people’s lives.” The Cyber Tutorial program mentors elementary school-age children in Santa Barbara.

Instilling a sense of responsibility to the community is integral to the leadership aspect of the AAPLE Academy. Each AAPLE student is required to complete a total of 200 community service hours in order to graduate, more than three times what is required of secondary students. In addition, the academy hosts an AAPLE Kids Caring Day twice yearly where students volunteer at various nonprofits throughout the community. A capstone leadership thesis project is required in students’ senior year.

“My favorite part of AAPLE is the community and people in the program,” one student said via video presentation. Teambuilding is essential to the program and student trips, tailgate parties and picnics throughout the year help foster this strong sense of community.

Perhaps the most telling measure of AAPLE’s success is the fact that its first class of graduates were accepted to a variety of competitive universities across the nation, including Harvard, Tufts, NYC, UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

Click here for more information on the AAPLE Academy. The application period opens March 9 and closes April 10.

— Ann Pieramici represents the San Marcos AAPLE Academy.

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