SEBRING - Sebring High School's International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is "outstanding," continues to grow in impact and offers a "mini-college experience," according to comments Thursday at the annual IB Benefit Banquet.
IB students, parents, teachers and supporters were among the 182 who attended the banquet at the Chateau Elan Hotel.
IB Parent Network President Reed Bowman said the IB program is maturing and now has its own momentum.
"The best part about it, I think, is the IB philosophy has been totally embraced by the administration," he said. "Where we felt we had to nudge it along early on they [administration] are totally on board. We have been thrilled this year with the school's involvement. It's just been a great year."
More students are entering the program, the IB graduation rate is higher, the Sebring High IB test scores are competitive with those worldwide and in some subjects they were better than the worldwide average, Bowman noted. "That's not bad for three years into it."
Cardiologist Richard Daum said the IB Diploma Programme was a major factor in his family's decision to come to Highlands County.
"We found it to be outstanding as enrichment," he said.
Daum said his oldest daughter, who is a junior in the IB program, is excited about learning and his younger daughter, who attends Sebring Middle School, is on her way to the IB program.
IB senior Tariq Ausaf said IB has helped him with his study skills and helped him get into college.
He is on the waiting list for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology so he may go to the University of Miami to study electrical engineering or materials engineering with a focus on nanotechnology and then go to law school.
Ausaf originally joined IB with the goal of going to Harvard University.
"At least I have been wait-listed by MIT, that is the positive side," Ausaf said.
Many colleges look at IB as a "safe student" because if you have made it through IB that means you can make it through college as well, he said.
Junior Armon Luckenbach said the rigor of IB has been a big help in preparing him for college.
"I went to SFSC [South Florida State College] for a semester of all college courses and it wasn't even close to the rigor that IB offers," he said.
Living in Zolfo Springs, Luckenbach said he has a long drive every morning with his mother or father to get to Sebring High.
After graduation he plans on attending college with a major in biochemistry and then continue his studies in medical school.
Junior Lindsay Everest noted that she and Luckenbach are in the first class that will be taking all four years of IB, which includes ninth- and 10th-grade in pre IB and 11th- and 12th-grade in the IB Diploma Programme.
"It's definitely bonded us as a whole family and we have stayed pretty close knit for the most part," she said. "I really appreciate the IB experience because it has made us well rounded.
"Like Tariq said, we are deemed kind of the 'safe students' because we basically had a mini-college experience."
Everest is undecided about her major and plans after high school, but is considering furthering her education at the University of Florida, the University of South Florida or New York [NYU}, Columbia and Cornell universities.
IB Coordinator Jo Anna Cochlin offered an update of the program at the benefit banquet.
In the past year, the IB program has had its second set of students sit for exams bringing the total to 21 diploma candidates, she said. Of those 21 students, 67 percent accumulated enough points to earn the IB Diploma inching them closer to the international passing rate of 78.5 percent. Five of the individual classes - English, Math, Math Studies, Art and Music had a 100 percent pass rate this year.
"Our IB Diploma earners took with them to college between 24 and 34 dual enrollment credits," she said. "Impressive stats for a second-year program."
The 2013-14 school year started with 129 pre-IB and IB students at Sebring High, she noted. Thus far a total of 171 students are scheduled for the 2014-15 school year for IB, pre-IB or individual IB classes.
"We are expanding our offerings by allowing students who are not in the pre-IB program to take individual classes alongside other classes such as advanced placement, dual enrollment and honors," Cochlin said.
Since students who attend Florida public universities can earn up to six college credits per IB course, she expects the school's enrollment of certificate-only students to increase.
"IB curriculum and teaching continues to grow in its impact on Sebring High School as all ninth- and 10th-grade English, history and science honors level teachers now have IB training," she noted.