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Hard work pays off for new IB graduates
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For International Baccalaureate students, three weeks of testing is finally over.

At West Hall High School, it was just in time for Friday night’s graduation. All six of the night’s speakers — four class officers, valedictorian and salutatorian — were testing Friday morning.

But it was totally worth it, they said.

“Because we only take these classes, it really trains you for college,” said Elijah Murawski, who plans to study piloting at Gainesville State College. “And depending on how well you do or what school you go to, you can earn up to 24 hours of credit.”

Under the IB program, students take six classes for two years and take final exams during their senior year. Between essays and projects produced during the year and the final exams, students can earn a score between 1 and 7 to obtain college credit. The program was introduced at West Hall, North Hall and Johnson high schools in 2008, and the inaugural classes receive Hall County’s first IB diplomas this weekend.

“Five years ago, we started asking what capstone was most representative of the country and the world,” Superintendent Will Schofield said. “We held a study group and decided the IB diploma was the most potent and the program is very powerful.”
Schofield said the program was welcomed with great success and high numbers in Hall County. Despite budget cuts, the Hall County school system continues to pay costs of the tests.

For West Hall senior Mauricio Novelo, it’s saving him more than a few hundred dollars. He will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall with a full scholarship and hopes to develop his own major to include literature, anthropology and bilingual studies.

“It really challenges the students, and I think the IB program has helped all levels of students to elevate themselves,” said Laura Ecke, coordinator for West Hall’s program. “IB helped AP classes to grow as well. Our AP numbers are booming, so I really think it’s helping everyone to raise the bar.”

Because the students take the same classes together for two years, many said they feel a sense of community and help one another out with homework or spend time together after school.

“It really is like a family,” said Brandy Jones, who will study forensic pathology at Oglethorpe University. “We’ve taken classes before, but especially now since we’re together for the entire day. There’s a strong feeling of closeness.”

The students said they feel more prepared for college than other high school students because of the demanding workload. They were required to write extended essays with independent research, take a theory of knowledge class to examine philosophy and complete hours of community service or extracurricular activities. A few students also completed a bilingual diploma, which required them to take full classes in Spanish.

For many of the students, completing the program together as the inaugural class was the best part.

“We went through the unexpected,” said Becca Shields, who plans to study education at the University of Georgia. “It can be overwhelming, and you have to be in a constant mindset to prepare for three weeks of testing. Everything about IB was an adventure, and we were there for each other.”

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