1 in 60: Overland Pilots AP African American Studies


After ten years of collaboration, CollegeBoard presented its AP African American Studies class to high schools across the nation. Through the course, CollegeBoard recognized the importance of Black history at a prestigious level as well as the neglect of the topic in their own courses. High schools were approached to offer the course based on their unique demographics and given the opportunity to fill out an interest form to be part of the pilot year. 

Overland was one of the schools approached and, because of the actions of their administrative team, Nathan Umetsu (ooh-met-su) is one of 60 teachers in the nation to teach the first and only AP African American Studies course.  

“I was excited, but also nervous at the same time,” Umetsu said. “This is the first time the course has been offered so I have been designing the course from the ground up.” 

He has the special opportunity to bring Overland seniors the education that they’ve been seeking. One that removes the veil from America’s one-sided story they know too well.  

“Every day I am shocked by the things students do not know that I believed to be common knowledge,” Umetsu said. 

His Masters in history, with an emphasis in American history, made him the perfect person to teach the course. 

“[But I still] learn new content each day,” Umetsu said. “[And make it a point to] share that knowledge with the students at Overland.”

CollegeBoard created the class because they’ve been listening to the nation. The massive company knows that they have the ability to change the individual student’s education with the course, but they needed to know if we would actually take it. 

“Students want to learn and hear more about topics that are not generally talked about in a high school setting,” Umetsu said. 

The course’s official guide was released on February 1st and describes exactly what students will learn in their year. 

“Students explore key topics that extend from early African kingdoms to the ongoing challenges and achievements of the contemporary moment,” Mr. Umetsu said. 

The course is truly AP worthy with its level of depth in individual topics I didn’t even realize I could learn about, but also emphasizes the student. A large part of the class is a “Course Project” that is individually led and chosen by each student, allowing them to turn in a 1200-1500 word assignment that makes a defensible claim and supports it with sources, but the topic is completely subjective.

Umetsu said the class is, “a setting that provides them the chance to speak up and have their opinion heard,.” This occurs right from their first lesson from Henry Louis Gates Jr. ‘s “42 Million Ways to Be Black,” which, “helps students develop an open mindset from day one.”

AP African American Studies is pioneering a new idea for AP classes and what a high school student can learn through its content and student-focused aspect. Next school year begins the expansion of the course to other schools past the pilot programs, but students need to advocate for the courses that they want to see taught at their school.  

“Start a letter addressed to the admin of your school with the hopes of offering this course to students the next school year,” Umetsu said.  “With enough signatures not only from the students but the community, the admin could take a stance on reaching out to CollegeBoard and expressing interest in the program.” 

Overland is one in sixty schools across the nation to teach their students about Black history.

“Colorado State Standards are already changing for next year in what we as history teachers will be teaching,” Mr. Umetsu said. “Now, with AP African American Studies, there is potential for a deeper dive into other realms that have not been possible before.”