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Posted: October 2, 2023

Albuquerque High Student Gets Perfect Score on AP Exam

Sinahi Oaxaca one of only 247 students in the world to earn every point possible on Spanish Language and Culture Exam.

Sinahi Oaxaca at Albuquerque High.

Sinahi Oaxaca at Albuquerque High.

As a student at Reginald Chavez Elementary, Sinahi Oaxaca was quietly getting things done.

Her fifth-grade teacher described her as a gifted student and a hard worker who “takes her grades, assignments, and studies seriously.”

“She is very talented and responsible," Ms. Melendrez wrote in a short bio after Sinahi was selected as a student of the week in January of 2017.

Seven years later, Sinahi's hard work is paying off.

The Albuquerque High Student received a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture Exam, one of only 247 students in the world to earn every point possible.

“At first, I didn’t think I’d read it right,” Sinahi said, explaining that she initially took the email to mean she passed the exam with a score of five, something several other students at her school had done.

“But then the bilingual coordinator and the principal and the teachers started to congratulate me, and they’re like, ‘Well, you got a perfect score,’” Sinahi said. “I was really surprised.”

The rigorous Spanish test requires students to write an essay, answer comprehension questions, and carry on a conversation, among other tasks. After taking the exam last May, Sinahi was a little nervous because of a technical glitch she encountered on the speaking portion.

“I guess my ideas were good,” she said. “I did feel prepared.”

She credits Mr. Sergio Soto, the AP language and culture teacher she had last year who she said challenged her and her classmates every day. That included a workshop day on a Saturday in which Mr. Soto drilled the students on the material over and over again.

‘Spanish is my first language’

Sinahi, an aspiring nurse practitioner who was born and raised in Albuquerque, is an English Language Learner.

“Spanish is my first language,” she said. “I speak it at home with my parents.”

She learned English in preschool and kindergarten and has been in bilingual programs at APS since kindergarten, beginning at Reginald Chavez, moving to Washington Middle School, and eventually ending up at Albuquerque High.

Being a native Spanish speaker helped her, but the Spanish she speaks at home is informal. The Spanish AP exam she aced focused on the formal Spanish language and using proper grammar.

Sinahi has always been one to challenge herself.

As an eighth grader, she enrolled in algebra in Spanish, though she had to take it at Albuquerque High because it wasn’t offered at Washington. She’s also taken geometry, biology, chemistry, anatomy, and history classes in Spanish.

“I don’t feel that I struggled that much in Spanish,” she said, adding that she’s grateful for the bilingual program at AHS and bilingual coordinator Fabiola Espinoza for the many opportunities she was afforded.

A head start in college

Sinahi is taking nursing classes at the district’s Career Enrichment Center, which shares a campus with Early College Academy. She plans to complete the nursing program in May, spend the summer studying for the state boards, and enter college as a licensed practical nurse. Her ultimate goal is to become a nurse practitioner, a health care provider who can treat patients, prescribe medications, and carry out many of the same functions as doctors.

Why a career in health care?

“Because of my parents,” she said, explaining that while they understand English, they can’t carry on a conversation with doctors or other health care providers. Sinahi has had to step in and translate for her parents and feels that being able to connect with patients in their own language would be beneficial for them. She also enjoys interacting with patients.

While she hasn’t made a final decision, Sinahi is leaning toward enrolling at the University of New Mexico because it has a good nursing program. She wants to stay in Albuquerque where she has forged strong relationships and has support from her family and church. She does, however, want to live in the dorms to get the full college experience.

Sinahi will have a head start when she enters college.

Students who pass AP exams earn college credits, and Sinahi has passed a number of them. Beyond the Spanish Language and Culture exam, she has passed the AP world history exam, the AP U.S. history test, and the AP calculus exam. She’s planning to take the AP Spanish Literature test this year. 

Asked whether her parents are proud that she’s pursuing a career in health care, Sinahi said they just want her to pick a career that makes her happy. She said her father, a welder, and her mother, a cook, have supported her with everything she’s done. Because of how rigorous the nursing program is, Sinahi hasn’t been able to work, and her parents have never had an issue with that.

“They work hard, and thanks to them, I’m here and I’m able to do all of this,” she said.