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West Hall junior scores high on AP exams
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Anna Jackson, IB/AP coordinator, and Scott Justus, principal, announce students who received 5s last year on their Advanced Placement exams in a class Friday at West Hall High School. Teachers at the school placed signs in the yards for students making 5s. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Hannah Wetzel is nothing short of a scholar.

The 17-year-old has been working day in and out for the past year in order to reach her goals — 5s on both of her Advanced Placement exams — and she succeeded.

“I was mostly squealing and jumping up and down. Needless to say, I was elated,” said Wetzel, a junior at West Hall High School.

AP exams are conducted during May. To help encourage other students to do their best, Jackson had signs made reading “I MADE A 5 ON THE AP EXAM” in West Hall’s silver and blue colors to place in students’ yards.

A 5 is the highest score attainable on the exams. To achieve it requires someone intellectually gifted and hardworking, said Sam Harben, one of Wetzel’s teachers.

“Hannah is purpose-, not process-driven. She seeks understanding. For example, she reads and rereads until it is clear and does not settle for ‘I finished the assignment,’” said Harben, who teaches AP microeconomics.

Matt Phillips, Wetzel’s AP government teacher, agreed. He said a student must have natural academic ability in the subject area, receive competent instruction in the content and exam structure, and have an internal drive to prepare for the exam.

“Hannah obviously has all the components of that formula working for her,” Phillips said. “She is a very gifted student that pushes herself, her peers, and her teachers to be the very best they can be each and every day both in and out of class.”

Wetzel spends a lot of time studying, but also enjoys jogging, cooking, reading fashion magazines and playing the clarinet as part of the school’s marching, jazz and symphonic Band of Silver. She’s not yet sure of her college plans.

“I’m a very intellectually curious person, and I try to do the most I can with what’s offered to me. I’m also a bit competitive by nature,” Wetzel said.

Only three of Harben’s 40 students earned a 5. The AP government exam had similar results, with three of 44 receiving 5s.

It’s not just the satisfaction of reaching her goals that will help Wetzel and other students with 5s. Most universities either grant course credit or exempt students from required courses. If the university grants either, a 5 guarantees credit. AP credit allows students to extend their studies with a double major or more electives, or to graduate early. It also saves them and their parents in tuition, said Anna Jackson, the school’s AP and IB coordinator.

Wetzel said she studied most nights for the exams, but also credited Harben and Phillips for their help.

“In addition to the yearlong course, students attend before and after school review sessions. In addition, the students team up for group study sessions,” Harben said.

Not only is Wetzel enrolled in two AP courses, but she is also a full diploma International Baccalaureate candidate. Jackson said the IB program is the school’s most rigorous program.

“Overall, Hannah is an honest, kind, intelligent, diligent worker, who is willing to give her time to help others while maintaining the highest level of rigor at WHHS. I am extremely proud,” Jackson said.

Wetzel wasn’t the only student to receive 5s on her exams. Eleven 5s were earned by the school’s students. The school also had a 100 percent pass rate on the AP Spanish language and culture exam.

Some are AP Scholars with Distinction, meaning they earned an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on 5 or more of these exams, Jackson said.

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