Allison Nelson has quickly returned to her roots. But things look a little different this time around.
A 2012 graduate of West Hall High School, Nelson now teaches sixth-grade math and science at West Hall Middle School.
“The (International Baccalaureate) program allowed me to pursue more difficult college preparation classes without throwing me into college too early,” Nelson said. “The other aspect that drew me to IB was its encouragement of world scholars. The IB program prepares students for college and to be productive world citizens.”
Nelson graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in wildlife biology last year and represents a growing number of high school students from Hall County taking IB program and advancement placement courses.
For example, the number of AP scholars in the county school district was up to 241 in May from 178 last year, and the number of exams taken increased to 2,516 in 2017 from 2,255 in 2013.
Testing and diploma rates in AP and IB programs have reached their highest levels, too.
Of the AP tests attempted, 48 percent were passed this year compared with just 29 percent in 2012.
And the IB program had a 70 percent success rate among 47 students at three high schools: Johnson, North Hall and West Hall.
“I am so proud of our students and team members as they continue to make dramatic progress in both the number of high school students enrolling in the nation’s most rigorous coursework and the associated success rates,” Superintendent Will Schofield said. “Looking at AP, IB and dual enrollment college courses collectively, the trajectory of improvement is incredible.”
Dual enrollment programs have benefited Gainesville High School students as well. It allowed Gabriela Martinez to complete a year of college courses for free before graduating this year from Gainesville High School.
Martinez is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minor in Spanish as a member of the Wingate (North Carolina) University Class of 2020, where she began as a sophomore.
“In all honesty, I never thought I would attend college after high school or even while still attending high school,” Martinez said. “I am an undocumented and first-generation college student, so I did not believe that I had potential to be successful in higher education.”
But with talented mentors and teachers “who truly believed in my potential to be successful in the dual enrollment program,” Martinez said she excelled in ways that surprised her.
“The dual enrollment program also made the transition to college smoother because I developed a college-level mentality that potentially prepared me for the heavy workload and how to balance my school and social life,” she said.
For Nelson, feeling prepared for college was also a big takeaway,
“While other students struggle to adjust to both the college classroom and social environment, IB students come in with experience that makes the college classroom feel like home,” she said.
But Nelson admits there are some things you can never practice for.
“Now as for the social aspects of college: Can anything really prepare you for that?” she asked.