Kibitz: Bentonville High School Students with Aspire Higher

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aspire higher nwaAspire Higher is a student-led group that prepares students for college entrance exams and select AP courses at Bentonville High School.

Learn More About Aspire Higher


How did Aspire Higher begin?

We wanted to use our free time wisely this summer. We discussed our AP experiences as juniors – the good and the bad – to determine how best to prepare for college. We created Aspire Higher to help other students advance their education.


What was it like spending an entire summer teaching?

Teaching is hard work! We empathize with the teachers more than we did before. It takes a lot of organization to provide instruction. We went beyond giving advice and tutoring and found that it’s hard to create good test questions. But it’s a great way to study. If you can teach a subject, you know it. Returning to the material, some of our own personal struggles turned into “Aha” moments. We underestimated the amount of work that would be needed, but we grew as much from the experience as the students did. We got to know the other students really well and made friends.


[caption id="attachment_4639" align="alignleft" width="133" class="left "]Aspire Higher Team: (From Top) Shahul Alam, Atharva Marathe, Moushumi Sahu, Sameer Kulkarni Aspire Higher Team: (From Top) Shahul Alam, Atharva Marathe, Moushumi Sahu, Sameer Kulkarni[/caption]


What are the benefits of taking AP classes?

Making an A in an AP class boosts your GPA, sure, but the AP experience – the lab materials, the teachers, the students – it is ideal for college preparation. When you are surrounded by excellence, you are motivated to be excellent.

Admittedly, the classes are far from easy A’s. But if you make a B in an AP class, you can still graduate with a 4.0. The AP courses at BHS count as college credit, so we have the opportunity to save money during our undergraduate years.

With such a low student-to-teacher ratio, you get a lot of one-on one-guidance from AP teachers. They genuinely care about your success and will push you to do better. Even after the classes end, our teachers continue to help us advance our education.


What typically deters students from taking AP classes?

A lot of smart kids don’t take AP classes because they are afraid or unmotivated to take on the challenge. It also takes a semester of pre-AP coursework to qualify for AP-level courses, so there are scheduling limitations as well. Students are seriously discouraged from taking AP classes without the prerequisites. Skipping pre-requisites is an extensive process with a lot of red tape.

What is it like to take a class without taking the prerequisite first?

You might feel stranded at first. We’ve all experienced roadblocks over the years. The goal of Aspire Higher is to help students circumnavigate those roadblocks. We learned from seniors who were in the same boat.


What can a student expect from an AP class?

Atharva: I started AP Chemistry without any background. The class was conducted like a college class: self-paced. The tests are very rigorous and are graded on a curve. Lab reports will essentially make or break your grade in AP Chemistry. In Pre-AP, you don’t learn to write lab reports.


What’s next for Aspire Higher?

In November, we’re offering another ACT session. We’re hoping to teach a SAT prep course next semester. Sameer begins class at the UofA next week, and most of us graduate next year. Moushumi will be around to carry the torch next year, and we hope we can make it back next summer. We still have brothers and sisters in our schools, and we want to help the community understand the benefits of early exposure so we can bring that high-achieving mentality out of the shadows.

To learn more about Aspire Higher, you can visit their website at

Last modified onTuesday, 15 March 2016 13:25