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In rare feat, West High graduate aces AP exam

Caroline Maxon is shown at the Old Well at UNC at Chapel Hill. Caroline Maxon is shown at the Old Well at UNC at Chapel Hill.

Henderson County public schools and the Falcon family are celebrating the news that 2021 West Henderson High School graduate Caroline Maxon earned a rare perfect score on an Advanced Placement exam last spring.

Currently a freshman studying chemistry at UNC at Chapel Hill, Maxon was one of only 375 students — or 1.5 percent of the 24,021 students worldwide who took the AP Research Exam in 2021 — to earn every point possible on the AP Research Exam in Spring 2021.

“AP courses and exams are college-level, requiring great focus and persistence among participating students,” Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement Program, said in a College Board press release.

“Her timely research explored a potential correlation between political alignment and the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918," said Reuben Swindall, Maxon’s AP Research teacher at West Henderson. "It was both academically original and especially well conceived." The AP Research exam consists of a 4,000-5,000-word, original academic paper and an oral presentation and defense.

“I worked really hard on my paper and was very proud of what I submitted,” Maxon told Wingspan, West Henderson High's student newspaper. “AP Research was a challenging class for me, but it really prepared me for college.”

Upon her graduation from West in May 2021, Maxon earned the AP Capstone Diploma for successful completion of the AP Capstone Program — an optional, AIG curricular path purpose built to prepare students to excel in the most rigorous academic environments. Successful completion of both the AP Seminar and AP Research courses earn graduating students the AP Capstone Diploma, which is a prestigious and internationally recognized credential.

“I feel like I’m ahead of the curve when it comes to writing and doing research," she said. "It taught me how to be independent in academics. I greatly benefited from AP Research and the Capstone program. It was definitely worth it.”

“Caroline is among the most brilliant students I have had the privilege of teaching," Swindall said. “This honor is well deserved and reflects the enormous amount of time, effort and ingenuity that she poured into the project. I have no doubt that we will continue to hear of Caroline’s achievements far into the future.”