High schoolers try new program

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Volunteer patient Okredia Braziel is placed on a board and a collar is placed around her neck as other students work on their techniques. The Medical Magnet Program is just one of many programs offered at the Hammond school. Last school year, the school began offering the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Volunteer patient Okredia Braziel is placed on a board and a collar is placed around her neck as other students work on their techniques. The Medical Magnet Program is just one of many programs offered at the Hammond school. Last school year, the school began offering the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate.

The students in the Algebra I course at Hammond Magnet High last year received a unique assignment: create a business plan utilizing math skills.

The assignment was part of a curriculum that allows Hammond High Magnet School to offer the Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate.

The goal was to incorporate real-life experiences into learning subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic, International Baccalaureate Coordinator Cherissa Vitter said.

“This is a whole new level of learning,” said April Vollmer, a 15-year-old incoming sophomore. “It really pushes you.”

The IB Diploma Programme, being offered for the first time at the Hammond school this past school year, is an academically challenging educational program to prepare students, ages 16 to 19, for university life, Vitter said. It has been designed to address their intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being, she said.

The IB education doesn’t replace a student’s general education but refocuses and adds to it, Vitter said. “We have to teach students that learning doesn’t end at 3 p.m.”

Students in the program begin taking the pre-diploma IB Diploma Programme curriculum as freshmen and sophomores before being admitted into the program their junior year, Vitter said.

Students interested in entering the program must be assessed by administrators at Hammond High and teachers by IB Diploma Programme teachers and coordinators at schools around the world, Vitter said.

Some Hammond High students like Gabriel Knight took on a full course load of pre-IB classes last year to prepare for the program this year, she said.

Knight said he decided to enroll in the program to increase his chances of being accepted into West Point.

While the coursework is hard, he said, it’s manageable and fun.

During a project design class, Knight said, the pre-diploma students were able to Skype with students in an IB class in Kingston, Jamaica, and ask them questions about what they should expect as a student in the IB program.

“Being in the pre-diploma program is a major leap from being in a normal classroom setting,” said Madison Bentivengna, who will be a junior when she returns to school in August. “It’s tough work, but it’s definitely something we all can handle.”

Bentivengna said that because of the program she has become better at balancing her social life with school, while still having time for sports.

In addition to their regular course work, students in the IB Diploma Programme learn how to plan, apply for scholarships and boost their ACT scores. They engage in a curriculum designed for the individual student “because every kid has a different learning style,” Vitter said.

For more information on the program, log onto http://www.ibo.org/diploma.