Why should 8th graders apply for advanced courses at HSLA? A recent webinar panel featuring guest speakers Andleeb Tanvir, a STEM Academy teacher at SA HSLA-MA, and scholars Alexa Torres and Tasnim Moumouni got right to the point. Principals Dan Rojas and Rachel Keane led questions, and we’ve highlighted the top three reasons our panelists gave for taking honors and academies courses in high school. If you are a current eighth grader interested in taking on challenging courses starting next year — and earning a diploma and transcript that will make colleges take notice of you — be sure to talk to your advisor and teachers about our programs and application process. The deadline to apply for SY22-23 is February 28, 2022.
Reason #1: Surround yourself with passionate peers and passionate teachers
Even in a school environment known for teachers who love their subjects and their students, the honors and academies courses are often identified as top favorites — by teachers as well as scholars. Ms. Tanvir, who teaches STEM Academy courses pre-med 1 and pre-med2 as well as AP Biology, says these are some of the best classes she’s had the opportunity to lead. “I used to be a college professor, so I have the perspective of teaching these subjects at both the college level and the high school level — and the SA scholars in these classes are on par, if not surpassing, some of the college students that I’ve taught.”
“These are some of my most favorite classes that I’ve ever taught in my life,” she says. “We just had a panel from the New York Stem Cell Foundation take questions about the future of medicine from our scholars in one of my classes, and I was so impressed by what my students asked and how they engaged with this professional research.”
Reason #2: Take the lead in your college courses
STEM Academy scholar Alexi Torres feels confident about navigating the more rigorous course load she expects as a college freshman at Brown University next year. “We’re learning to write research papers and engage in collaborative labs, and we’re learning deeper topics like the ethics behind medicine. It’s something I really enjoy.”
Tasnim Moumouni — also a STEM academy scholar — feels that the coursework prepares those who truly seek to to take on pre-med courses in college. “A day in the life of an academy student is just really making sure that you stay on top of your work and that you ask for help when you need it — it does get difficult!” Tasnim points to the collaborative environment and support of the teachers for helping scholars navigate the additional demands of honors and academies tracks.
The labs, papers, and principles taught in Tasnim’s courses push scholars to rise to new standards when it comes to coursework. “We’re just trying to learn to be better so that when we get to college we can incorporate these ideals into our work. It’s harder and it’s more work, but that’s what it takes if you truly want to go after these classes in college.”
Reason #3: Prepare for your dream career
SA’s STEM Academies offer a pre-med track and an engineering track, allowing scholars to dive deep into specific subject areas. While Ms. Tanvir knows that her students will be prepared to take on pre-med college courses in the future, she also sees how these classes set scholars up to pursue a variety of interests and academic careers. “There’s a whole host of other fields: going into research, getting a PhD, working for the CDC, epidemiology; we cover so much in science overall, not just those foundational pre-med courses.”
Alexi is a great example. She undertook both the pre-med and the engineering Academies, but ultimately chose to follow her passion in biology, and now plans to major in it next year. “I fell in love with biology when I took the course my freshman year. As a sophomore, I also took biomedical engineering and learned more about diseases and the engineering behind the vaccines. I was encouraged to continue pursuing the subject even though I knew it would be challenging, because it seemed important.”
Tasnim agrees: “I’ve wanted to go into the medicine field and this has helped me understand exactly what I have to do to get there. If you haven’t decided what you want to do, here is a place where you get to figure that out. Four years of courses that help you explore — economics, pre-med, music, I’ve done it all. It’s been great to have the high school experience that I always wanted to have but get to go into college ready to take on what I want to do.”