Fighting for her college access

Two important qualities we try to develop in our girls are the courage and confidence to fight for what they deserve in their education and careers. One of our high school seniors just epitomized what a MOSTe student does when she finds an obstacle in her path, blocking access to the college of her dreams. 

As a junior at Los Angeles High School, Natalie Pichardo Becerra signed up for AP Calculus AB. Because there aren’t many students at LA High who elect to take AP Calculus, her teacher agreed to a “double roster,” teaching both a regular math course and the AP Calculus course in the same classroom at the same time. Natalie has always liked math and done well in the subject. She continued that trend by finishing junior year with an A in math, and 3.96 GPA overall.

Natalie also likes visual art and hopes to study architecture in college, or double major in art and engineering. To be a competitive college applicant, she knew she had to take AP Calculus BC her senior year. So she enthusiastically registered for the class, assuming, along with her nine other math geek friends (including fellow MOSTe scholar Samantha Malagon) and the teacher, that the “double roster” arrangement would continue senior year.

But with the new academic year came a new principal who didn’t approve of the “double roster” arrangement and took AP Calculus BC off the course list.

Natalie and the other students were not happy. Not only were they being denied the opportunity to take AP Calculus BC, but there was no other high-level 4th year math course for them to take — and the University of California and other selective colleges all “highly recommend” four years of math in high school.

College access is just that — access to any college you qualify for. But first, you need to take the high school courses that get you that qualification. More and more, selective colleges and universities require that their entering freshmen have taken calculus in high school. AP Calculus is even better — specifically, both AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC, for students interested in a STEM major.

Natalie decided to fight for her college access.

She organized her fellow students and, most importantly, their parents, to demand that the AP course be reinstated. She even contacted the Assistant Superintendent for the West Division of LAUSD. By the end of the first week of school, after presenting a unified front to make their case, the students got AP Calculus BC reinstated under the “double roster” arrangement.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Natalie or her friends will be accepted at the selective colleges where they apply. But she knew that to even be considered, she had to get on the same playing field as students from high schools with more extensive course offerings. Without a fourth year of advanced math, she wouldn’t even be in the game.

We don’t know the other side of the story.  The principal may have been obligated to take the class off the schedule due to matters beyond the school’s control. But we do know this. On Tuesday, August 15, there was no AP Calculus BC at Los Angeles High School, and by Friday, August 18, there was.

Thanks to MOSTe senior Natalie Pichardo Becerra. Brava, Natalie!