Two Buchholz students honored for AP prowess
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.
Jenny Li and Keshav Vemuri signed up for their first Advanced Placement classes four years ago.
Li and Vemuri took college-level courses in human geography and environmental science as high school freshmen. At the end of the school year, they took their first AP exams and hoped to receive college credit.
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first," Li said. "We didn't know how APs worked."
The way AP exams are graded, a 1 is the lowest score available and 5 is the highest. A score of 3 or higher is typically considered passing. Li and Vemuri, now seniors at Buchholz High School, both earned 5s on their first exams.
Since then, Li and Vemuri have aced 11 AP exams each, covering a range of subjects. Li, 17, and Vemuri, 18, are this year's Siemens award winners for the state of Florida.
Every year, one male and one female student from each state is recognized. The students must earn the most 5's on math and science AP exams statewide. Each winner receives a $2,000 scholarship.
Both Li and Vemuri credit their successes to the AP teachers at Buchholz. Vemuri said he starts to look over review materials a month or so before exams start.
"Throughout the year, we get an understanding of the subject, so we don't need to completely relearn everything," Vemuri said.
Li agrees. She said she sometimes starts studying right before exams because she feels well prepared by her teachers.
"When we do study last-minute, it's more of a review," she said.
Although Li's parents emphasized grades when she was younger, she said they're hands-off now.
"When they stopped making me study in high school, I just continued on," she said. "It's just expectations you want to meet."
Vemuri said his parents have encouraged academic accomplishment.
"I guess if I was in a different environment, I wouldn't have gotten this far," he said.
Vemuri has received a score lower than 5 on only one AP exam, Spanish language. On that exam he scored a 3.
"I guess I could've done more, like immersing myself in the culture and language," he said, laughing.
Li received 4's on her English language, History and Physics C (Electricity and Magnetism) tests. Both Vemuri and Li said they prefer science- and math-based exams.
Both Li and Vemuri said they hope to attend Ivy League schools. Vemuri plans to double-major in math and physics, and Li wants to be a pediatrician.
Buchholz math coach Will Frazer said that Buchholz is the only school in Gainesville that offers all eight science and math AP courses.
"We definitely have a great set of AP teachers in the math, science and technology areas," he said.
Frazer, who teaches AP Statistics, calculus B/C and macroeconomics, said the school offers 23 Advanced Placement courses in all. He said a Buchholz student has won the Siemens Award every year since 2009.
"There's only one school in the United States that's won it more in the last five years than we have," he said.
He said he thinks Li and Vemuri's intelligence and dedication have helped them score well on exams.
"They're both extremely smart and very hardworking," he said. "They're focused."
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