Achieving Dreams, One Student at a Time

Los Angeles is not known for stellar primary and secondary schools. In fact, financial cuts have left many districts scrambling to provide basic necessities such as affordable and nutritional lunches, let alone access to arts and technology education. Los Angeles is synonymous with celebrities, entertainment, and Hollywood; not scholars, academic rigor, or boarding schools.

Boarding schools are a familiar east coast concept: an elite educational institution that matriculates students into Ivy League colleges and universities. Most are situated in rural areas with sprawling land and an abundance of trees. Students are enclosed in a college-like campus where their days are packed with academics, extracurriculars, sports, and homework. They do not worry about meals nor beds, however, they do have to clean their room.

The Dream

In 2012, the former Superintendent of Beverly Hills School District, Dr. Gary Woods, and former Associate Provost at UCLA, Dr. David Unruh dreamed about the perfect school: a boarding school in a city center. They took notes on a napkin over lunch and came up with a descriptive name- American University Preparatory School. In 2014, the idea became reality with 20 boarding students enrolled in 9th and 10th grade. In 2016, AUP welcomed 50 students from 8 states and 17 countries, including students from Los Angeles. The faculty and staff are just as diverse, with decades of experience ranging from classroom teachers to practicing professionals.

American University Preparatory School is not a traditional boarding high school nor is it like any other high school in Los Angeles. With an enviable location in one of the greatest cultural and entertainment hubs, the student-life experience includes regular outings to museums, the public library, exhibits, and concerts. Dr. Woods knows that the location in LA’s metropolitan landscape is noteworthy and insists, “it is the perfect setting for developing young, innovative global leaders.”

The Curriculum

The freshmen experience centers around one truly interdisciplinary course that integrates global studies, academic skills, digital media arts, computer science, and fine arts. Each class draws content from ethnic enclaves in Los Angeles where students explore identity through the lens of the self, the city, and the environment. For example, students determine the historical and political significance of street art and graffiti in Historic Filipinotown, Little Ethiopia, Chinatown, or Pico Rivera. Students are challenged to connect with the environment and reflect on where they fit into the socio-cultural landscape.

AUP focuses on academic achievement and university admission through experiential learning. In addition to a mandatory college counseling class, students also take Digital Media Arts and Computer Science– both hallmarks of the AUP curriculum. “In preparation for life in the 21st century, having the skills to create digitally will be necessary for efficiency in many industries. There are still many people without these skills, and AUP students are on the front line of blazing this digital trail,” says Mr. Richard Lewis, head of DMA and CS.

The Partnerships

AUP strengthens extra-curricular and co-curricular offerings by building relationships with experts. Unique partnerships that broaden students’ experience include the YMCA, The Colburn School, and ICL Academy. These partnerships allow an amalgamation of students with varying interests to interact in social environments that celebrate diversity, both inside and outside of the classroom.

One of the first major partners was YMCA, which provides state-of-the-art athletic facilities for students to exercise. The Colburn School of Music partnership was formed so students have the option to enroll in guitar, choir, or music theory. Some aspiring musicians at the Colburn Academy attend AUP to meet their academic and boarding needs. The most recent partnership with ICL Academy for Film & Performing Arts offers AUP students an opportunity to take classes like voice intonation and improvisation, as well as experience a Hollywood studio atmosphere at LA Center Studios. ICL students in turn benefit from traditional brick and mortar math and science classes with hands-on laboratory instead of online classes.

The Students

At the end of the day, the dream, curriculum, and partnerships are for the students who have dreams of their own. “I want to be an astronaut and a dancer,” says Grace. Her classmate, Victoria, confidently reiterates, “I want to be a biomedical engineer.” Jeeyong excels in photography, while Qiaorong is an exceptional violinist. Olivia is part of the first graduating cohort in 2017 that has followed her passion of coding by establishing Code the Change on campus. AUP is the school that provides opportunities for students to actualize their dream. AUP is creating global scholars through disruptive innovation and illuminating the future of education.


Founded in 2013, the American University Preparatory School (AUP) is an innovative and forward-thinking boarding school for grades 9-12. Its enviable location in downtown Los Angeles and a focus on Global Leadership and digital media arts make AUP a top choice among international students looking to advance to a top U.S. university. AUP offers ambitious young students a rigorous and rewarding curriculum, backed by a range of artistic, sporting and extra-curricular activities. Every year, this exciting school attracts new students from across the U.S. and around the world who want to live and study in a unique and vibrant environment.

All images courtesy of American University Preparatory School

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