Thomas County Central High School Advanced Placement program and its students continue to exceed and raise their high bar.
The College Board recently announced the 2022-2023 AP Scholars. TCCHS bested its all-time high total of 64 last year to 86 this year, including four AP Capstone Scholars.
“Our students have earned these accolades through their willingness to accept the challenge of AP classes, which represent the highest level of academic rigor,” TCCHS AP Coordinator Erin White said. “ They consistently perform well across the AP curriculum, and their achievements are proof of the strength of our entire academic program.”
Levels include AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Honor and AP Scholar with Distinction. There’s also the now locally-recognized AP National level for students who earn at least a four or higher on at least eight AP exams and an average of at least a four on all exams taken.
“We are proud of our AP course offerings at TCCHS and happy to see our students recognized for their commitment to excellence,” TCCHS Assistant Principal Dr. Erin Rehberg said. “These students – and their teachers – work hard to achieve at the highest level, and it is always rewarding to see that hard work pay off. AP classes set students up for success in college and beyond, and we cannot wait to see how this distinction will lead to future accomplishments.”
AP Scholar with Distinction means a student passed five or more exams and averaged 3.5 on all exams taken. One member of this prestigious group is senior Cayden Gasque, 17, who has 12 AP classes on his transcript.
“I was most proud of challenging myself to take AP Literature and successfully passing the course,” he said. “Literature has always been my weak point in academics, so I thought it would give me the most difficulties, but surprisingly enough, I held a grade above a 100 throughout the whole year with a little hard work.”
He decided to take AP courses to earn college credit and to save money by having a competitive application for schools like the University of Georgia. Receiving his scholar title means more scholarship opportunities.
“Honors like AP Scholar are important to students because they give recognition to the hard work students put into their education,” he said. “Receiving awards for their hard work motivates students to continue working toward their goals.”
Senior Kayla Carr, 17, is an AP Scholar with Honor, a title for students who pass at least four exams with an average of 3.25 or higher on all exams taken.
“AP has helped me feel extremely well prepared for college,” she said. “I have gained academic knowledge as well as knowledge about myself. I was able to learn how I best learn and study in a healthy, individualized, and caring environment. I have worked hard in my classes and feel like I have come a long way – this award is the evidence of that.”
Senior Bryce Folsom, 17, is another AP Scholar with Honor. Participating in the Thomas County Middle School MERIT program helped him grasp the importance of challenging himself academically. High school AP courses kept him motivated and taught him valuable skills to work under pressure.
“AP exams have always been a challenge for me, so passing enough to get this distinction shows me how capable I am of doing well at the highest level available,” Folsom said. “Earning the AP Scholar distinction means a lot to me because it shows the hard work paying off. There have been many nights that I am up late studying or finishing homework, and in those moments, I think, ‘Is it worth it?’ In receiving recognition and honors, it becomes clear that it is worth it.”
He’s most proud of passing the AP Biology exam, a feat he never thought to best.
“I am not a science-oriented thinker, so I never had much hope of passing the test,” he said. “Thankfully, I did, and now I have a college credit in biology.”
Carr said making a five on the AP World History exam is her highlight so far.
“History is not my best subject, so I had to do a lot of extra work and be intentional in the way I studied and prepared in that class all year,” she said. “Sometimes, it is hard to recognize your extra work when looking solely at the grade in a class. Earning a five on any AP exam is an indicator of that hard work.”
AP Scholars pass at least three exams with a score of three or higher. Junior Heali Patel is an AP Scholar. Patel chose to take AP courses to challenge herself and said her teachers’ faith in her helps motivate her studies.
“After seeing that I was an AP Scholar, I was excited and proud of myself,” she said. “If I could go back in time and tell my freshman-year self that I ended up being an AP scholar, I would be ready to. After finally taking that leap, I would love to hear that my hard work pays off.”
Patel feels especially proud of earning credit for the AP English Language and Composition exam.
“I enjoyed that course the most,” she said. “I enjoyed that course because I liked the reading material. Mrs. [Jillian] Mitchell truly took time to pick out materials that we could easily understand because they were topics prevalent in our lives. The materials also directly matched back to the course work.”
Senior Ian Thompson, 17, earned AP Capstone Scholar. These scholars must pass AP Seminar and AP Research plus at least four other AP exams with a score of three or higher. Thompson started AP as a ninth-grader and has taken 13 courses.
“Initially, I began taking AP classes because I was motivated to continue pursuing higher-level courses to better prepare for the future,” he said. “Over time, I started taking more AP courses because I enjoyed the increased challenge and in-depth explanations of the topics at hand. I enjoyed pushing myself and preparing for college while also going more in-depth in subjects I wouldn’t normally do in regular classes.”
While he’s proud to pass all his classes and exams, a few stand out as especially memorable, like AP American Government and Politics.
“I can’t forget how proud I was to excel at AP American Government and Politics by making a five on the exam,” Thompson said. “This class was my first experience with AP courses, and my success inspired me to continue undergoing the Advanced Placement journey.”
He’s proud to earn the AP Capstone Scholar distinction because it represents his efforts toward completing research-based courses, but the journey to this accomplishment is even more meaningful.
“Honors such as the AP Capstone Scholar are important to students because they represent their dedication and hard work toward a particular subject,” Thompson said. “I can safely say that I now have experience in undergoing and compiling a proper research paper, which will hopefully stand out to colleges. At the very least, this distinction indicates my experience with unconventional yet crucial classes in which the skills I learned will be helpful in college.”
With the 2023-24 school year officially underway, the TCCHS AP program continues to grow. Currently, it offers 24 AP courses – including the addition of AP Computer Science Principles and the newest AP course, AP Precalculus – and has 320 students taking 620 classes.
“We have a very comprehensive set of AP offerings, and the success of our students has enabled us to build the premier AP program in the southwest Georgia area,” White said.
Returning scholars encourage their peers to consider AP courses to step outside their comfort zones and gain valuable life skills.
“I always encourage students to try and take AP courses because it is smart to challenge yourself and believe in yourself,” Patel said. “In a way, AP courses were a way for me to strengthen my confidence.”
“Constantly staying outside of your comfort zone is when a person grows most, and taking AP courses is the best way to grow as a student of knowledge, at least in the high school setting,” he said.
Carr recommends focusing on the content, not stressing the credits.
“AP can seem intimidating and even impossible when you put your focus on credits,” she said. “When I shifted my focus away from doing well on the exams and toward learning the content and beneficial skills to the best of my ability while gaining a better idea about my learning style, it felt easy to perform well on the exams. Don't stress!”
Thompson urges hesitant students to try AP, especially those who might lack confidence in their abilities or worry about not having enough time for other interests.
“Although more difficult than regular classes, AP courses aren’t impossible and can be easily tackled with enough dedication and interest from the student,” he said. “I’ve taken multiple AP courses and have consistently had time for myself and other hobbies/endeavors outside of schoolwork. Try something new, and the results will speak for themselves.”