Accelerated Honors Academy for Gifted Girls at Alverno Heights Academy

Published : Wednesday, August 8, 2018 | 5:39 PM

Kate Samaniego ’18 and Victoria Chen ’18 collaborate on a project for the SEAL team with Caltech as a part of the Accelerated Honors Academy.

The Accelerated Honors Academy (AHA) for Gifted Girls at Alverno Heights Academy allows qualified students entering the sixth, seventh or eighth grade to bypass the remainder of their middle school studies and attend Alverno Heights Academy as full-time high school students. The AHA was created to provide an engaging environment for advanced and gifted students who are ready for a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum centering on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students who graduate from the AHA complete a STEM-based, college-preparatory curriculum at an early age, typically two full years ahead of most high school students.

Eligibility and Readiness

Eligibility Requirements. Applicants to the AHA must be in the fifth, sixth or seventh grade at the time of application. Students who have already begun their eighth grade year are not eligible to apply directly to the AHA. Eighth grade students may still apply to the AHA once admitted to Alverno with a complete middle school transcript for regular admission.

Academic Readiness. The AHA seeks talented and motivated applicants who show promise in the fields of science and math. Admission to the program is competitive. There are a limited number of spaces available each year for applicants to the AHA. Applicants to the AHA are required to submit entrance test scores. Students may submit scores from either the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE-Upper Level), the ACT or the SAT. Practice tests of all three exams are offered at Alverno by appointment. If you would like to take a practice exam to see how you perform, please contact Ms. Cam Werley-Gonzales, Director of the Accelerated Honors Academy, at to set up an appointment.

Social Readiness. Applicants who receive qualifying scores on the entrance exam are invited to an interview with the Head of School, Directors of the AHA and the faculty of the Science and/or Math departments; and are expected to enroll in a five-week summer program offered through the Alverno Summer Institute. Students admitted to the AHA enter the Alverno community as full-fledged ninth graders; and are required to maintain an excellent GPA while carrying a full load of advanced placement and honors courses—all at an accelerated pace. The interview and aforementioned summer program help the Directors of the AHA make a final determination on the academic and social readiness of the applicant, and whether the program will suit the applicant’s goals, needs and interests.

Admissioni Requirements

• Be in the fifth, sixth, or seventh grade at the time of application.
• Completed AHA application with appropriate transcripts and recommendation letters.
• Appropriate score on the entrance exam.
• Interview at Alverno Heights Academy.
• Successful completion of five-week summer program.

Melody Wu ’18 (AHA), Kate Samaniego ’18 (AHA), and Alyssa Gutierrez ’19 work on a project in Science and Math Club.

Academics in the AHA

Admitted AHA students are automatically placed on the advanced track. The advanced track includes advanced placement and honors courses in at least 18 subjects (or the maximum number available) by the student’s fourth year, as well as multiple standardized test prep courses. Below is a typical course schedule for AHA students:

Freshman: Honors English 9, Honors Algebra II and Trigonometry, Honors Biology, Visual/Performing Art, Spanish I, Computer Science, Honors Independent Research in Science, and Theology I.

Sophomore: Honors American Literature, Pre-Calculus, Chemistry Honors, AP World History, Honors Spanish II, Advanced Computer Science, Honors Independent Research in Science, and Theology II.

Junior: AP English Language, AP Calculus A/B, AP Biology, AP U.S. History, Honors Spanish III, SAT or ACT Prep, Honors Independent Research in Science, and Theology III.

Senior: AP English Literature, AP Calculus B/C, Honors Physics, AP Environmental Science, AP Spanish, Theology IV, Honors Independent Research in Science, and SAT or ACT Prep

In addition to STEM coursework, AHA students are encouraged to participate in the Science and Math Club, science and math competition teams, robotics team and computer programming opportunities on campus.

The AHA Advantage

Students admitted to the Accelerated Honors Academy (AHA) at Alverno have an opportunity to complete a rigorous college-prep curriculum, years ahead of most high school students. Such an achievement enhances one’s chances of gaining acceptance at top colleges and universities.

Students who are considering careers in a STEM-related field typically seek admission at colleges and universities with strong and reputable programs in STEM fields. The primary objective of the AHA is to equip and prepare students, not just for admission to such programs, but also for the demands of a STEM-related major in college. AHA students enjoy the advantage of having committed and experienced teachers (all of Alverno’s science and teachers hold advanced degrees), small class sizes (the student-teacher ratio at Alverno is 12:1), and access to state-of-the-art equipment (through partnerships with local universities and corporations, Alverno’s science labs have access to the highest quality and most up-to-date equipment).

Unlike larger schools where a student’s academic achievements may become diluted by the high number of students in one’s grade level, the small size of the student community at Alverno provides the benefit of more accurately reflecting a student’s actual academic accomplishments.

Girls in STEM

At the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2011, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation, and expressed STEM Facts on Womenits strategy and commitment to “break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls.” In the wake of that message, in December of 2012, the United States announced that one of the top priorities of the nation was to increase the number of students receiving undergraduate degrees in STEM-related fields by one million over the next decade.

This national commitment to improving the education of women and girls in STEM-related fields speaks to serious and persistent problems of gender inequality in the state of California. While women and girls make up just over 50 percent of the state population, only 24 percent of its scientists and engineers are women. This disproportionate under-representation of women in STEM-related occupations reflects a similar disproportion in women’s education, particularly at the college level. Only 22 percent of those enrolled in computer science programs, for example, are women. In engineering programs, women comprise only 20 percent, and in mathematics, women still lag behind at 37 percent. Such disparities between women and men in education at the college level have roots in secondary education.

The Accelerated Honors Academy (AHA) for Gifted Girls at Alverno Heights Academy was created, in part, as a response to the global and statewide campaign to break down the social and economic barriers that hinder the progress of women in education.

For more information, contact Ms. Cam Werley-Gonzales, Director of the Accelerated Honors Academy, at (626) 355-3463 or

Alverno Heights Academy, 200 N. Michillinda Ave., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-3463 or visit

















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