Suffolk IB graduates are pioneers

Published 8:25 pm Monday, June 11, 2012

Members of Suffolk Public School’s first graduating International Baccalaureate class pose for the camera at King’s Fork High School. The IB program started in Suffolk four years ago. One graduate, Nicole Tsetsalis, is absent from the photo. Picture courtesy of Ravynn Stringfield.

Suffolk Public Schools’ first International Baccalaureate graduates have received an outsized chunk of King’s Fork High School’s total college scholarships haul, according to the district’s supervisor for advanced instruction.

While King’s Fork’s 300-odd graduating seniors have been awarded about $2.8 million in scholarships, its IB students – 16 in total – have amassed offers worth about $1.2 million, Carol Kennedy-Dickens said.

The students started in the program as freshmen after the district secured IB affiliation four years ago. They have received offers from about 20 different colleges, Kennedy-Dickens said.

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According to its website, the IB program operates in 141 countries, developing “intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills for a rapidly globalizing world.”

Kennedy-Dickens said that unlike Advanced Placement, the IB program ensures students are prepared for a liberal arts education, although students can also pick up an extra science subject for a different emphasis.

“It’s really taking care of the first couple of years of college,” she said, adding the IB program is also unique in that does not rely on end-of-course exams and includes an “International Assessment” which factors in a student’s final score.

“One of the major roles of the IB program is to build international-mindedness,” she said. “Through the classes, we are learning from an external viewpoint.”

The program actually began in 1968 to prepare the children of foreign diplomats for college, she said.

In Suffolk, students decide to take the IB program at the end of middle school before undertaking two years of classes to prepare them for the program itself, which is in the final two years of high school.

Ravynn Stringfellow, one of the graduating 16, wrote in an email that the IB program “for one (has) shown me the difference between knowing something and understanding it, that knowledge is not simple and there are so many different ways to uncover all of its different parts.

“It’s shown me that (as puzzling as this may sound) I know nothing except the small piece of knowledge that I have steadily built up over the years.

“In realizing I only claim a small bit of knowledge, it’s given me a thirst for finding more of it, while also molding me into a well-rounded person with several, fairly unconnected interests.”

Stringfellow plans to attend the University of Virginia as an Echols and Ridley Scholar, studying foreign affairs and sociology.

Kennedy-Dickens said 22 Suffolk public school students are due to graduate from the IB program next year and in the following after, and thereafter she “expect(s) about 50 graduates (in) each class.”

“They call themselves guinea pigs, (and) I keep insisting that they’re pioneers. They’re leading the way, and a lot are going to follow, especially when we start to get information of how well they’re doing in college.”