Naperville AP petition goes viral — does C-G have similar symptoms?

Academic pressure has always been put on students, but does there come a point when enough is enough?

Tessa Newman, a current student at Naperville North High School, wrote an essay describing the AP culture at that school. The essay detailed pressure and anxiety that many students are facing. Newman also created a Change.Org Petition to help raise awareness, and fight for more support and change at the school.

Annika Socolofsky, a 2008 graduate from NNHS, told the Chicago Tribune in response to the petition that the environment of the school as highly competitive, and that the push for honors curriculum and AP courses is greater now than ever.

That may ring a bell in your head if you have attended Cary-Grove or are a resident of the community. Why? Students at C-G also experience pressure and anxiety-filled semesters.

Maggie Davis, a freshman in college at Emerson College in Boston, wrote an article her junior year titled “Welcome to Cary-Grove University,” in which she described the academic culture of Cary-Grove, and the push for AP courses.

I am currently a junior that is enrolled in three AP courses, in addition to the two I took sophomore year. Five AP courses by junior year sounds crazy, right? Right. What’s even more crazy is that there are students who have taken even more than five in my grade.

The push for AP hasn’t ceased at all at Cary-Grove, but there has been an increase of support for elective courses. For a week each year, we celebrate our courses that allow students to craft the perfect pastry, make music, y enhancing sus habilidades de español.

While it is awesome that we celebrate our electives, how come it is for only one week out of the 36 in our school year? Why don’t we celebrate them all 36 weeks?

With our new principal, Neil Lesinski, being the head of curriculum for District 155, I thought it would be a great idea to talk with him about AP culture and ask him some questions..

I have heard much speculation as to why there has been such an encouragement for AP courses: it earns a bonus for the superintendent, it makes the district look better, or the administration just wants to challenge students.

“I can’t speak for Dr. Thomas, but there has been a lot of research supporting students in AP or Dual Credit,” Mr. Lesinski said. “Students are more likely to pursue college, and persist through college and in life.”

This leads to the question: Is a student being challenged if they are not enrolled in an AP course?

“I would love to say that every student, because of the experiences, education, and preparation the district provides them, can be successful in a college level course,” Mr. Lesinski said. “But we give students a choice because we know in the end the student will hopefully choose a course that is challenging at their level.”

I agree with what Mr. Lesinski previously said, as I have chosen not to take some courses because I think they would be too challenging, but have been successful in the courses I chose.

“One of those things [the Naperville North articles] led to is the realization that students’ voices were there, but they weren’t being listened to,” he said. “It’s important that we are constantly creating opportunities for students to share how they’re feeling, what’s causing that anxiety, and how we should support them in that process.”

Mr. Lesinski gave answers similar to that throughout our interview, which provides hope for the future.

My last point in our interview was regarding C-G students and their renowned well-roundedness through involvement in the arts, athletics, academics, and volunteer work. Since this push for AP has started, many students have had to drop out of the things that make them so well rounded in order to make room for an AP class and/or a 5 on their AP exam in May.

One of Mr. Lesinski’s plans to preserve the well-roundedness of C-G’s students is to create a council in which various students from the school are able to speak on behalf of their classmates and share concerns, thoughts, and ideas.

“We know our students are highly motivated, and we also know that C-G students are well-rounded but prepared to succeed in college and in careers,” he said. “It’s a balance. In situations when students are feeling unbalanced, we must create support create systems that support students and allow them balance academics and involvement.”

After my interview with Mr. Lesinski, I am hopeful for the upcoming school year, and you should be, too. I am hopeful not only for his role as principal, but for the overall well being of C-G students.