Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
PARK CITY — While listing the Advanced Placement courses she's taken, Park City High School senior Kayla Guillory got stalled around No. 9.
"I need a transcript," she said, counting out the various subjects on her fingers and asking a friend nearby what she had left out.
The Stanford-bound student who intends to study mechanical engineering was able to remember 11 and was fairly confident she had named them all: calculus AB and BC, physics B and C, geography, world civilizations, chemistry, English language, English literature, U.S. government and U.S. history.
Not all of her courses will count toward a major at Stanford, Guillory said, but the combined result of those tests translates to roughly one year of college academic credit, all earned during high school.
"It's something that challenges you, and I think that is something that every student needs," she said.
Guillory is in good company. During the 2012-13 school year, 36.7 percent of students enrolled at Park City High School took and passed an Advanced Placement test, earning the school the highest success rate in a state that ranks seventh in the nation for AP performance.
Gov. Gary Herbert visited the Park City Miners on Monday to commemorate the honor and award the school with a traveling trophy — a voluminous history of Utah mounted on a pedestal.
Following the ceremony, Herbert and state education director Tami Pyfer conducted an informal chat with students about their plans after graduation and asking for their suggestions on improving education in the state.
"I appreciate that you all, as AP students, are thinking beyond high school graduation," Herbert said. "You know it’s not just K-12. It’s K-16 and beyond."
Herbert said a focus of his administration has been the growth of Utah's economy and providing opportunities for Utahns to support themselves and their families through employment.
Longterm economic growth depends on an educated and trained labor force, he said, but as the market becomes more global in nature, the competition for jobs increases.
"It’s not a matter of just being educated so you can compete," Herbert said. "It’s a matter of being educated so you can compete and win."
Herbert spoke of the progress Utah has made, from attracting businesses to achieving one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. But the secret of success, he said, is the people of Utah and particularly driven students who challenge themselves with rigorous coursework.
"You’re making it cool to be smart in school," the governor said. "You’re preparing yourselves to be the leaders of tomorrow."
Janice Jones, who teaches AP chemistry at Park City High, said she has been impressed with the motivation of students who enter her classroom.
"I’m seeing them come through our system well-prepared, and I see it as my job to polish them and send them on to the next level," Jones said.
This marks the second consecutive year Park City High has posted the state's highest AP success rate, coming in ahead of runner-up Skyline High School by 0.1 percent.
Rounding out the top five were Davis High, Hillcrest High and the Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy.
Guillory said she appreciated the opportunity to have a dialogue with the governor and learn about what the state is doing in regard to education. She also said that she is "over the moon" about enrolling at Stanford and that AP courses were essential for giving her an opportunity to prepare for higher education.
"Yes, it looks great on resumes, and it looks great on applications," she said, "but more than that, I was able to go into an AP program because it was the next level for me. It was the next challenge for me."
Also on Monday, Herbert signed SB140, which provides funding to cover the costs of AP exams for low-income students. The bill was passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate during the most recent legislative session.
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