A group of 11 Homewood-Flossmoor High School students who graduated with their class in May received special recognition for their outstanding work in earning an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
At its December meeting, the H-F school board recognized 2016 graduates, home on semester break, who made up the second class of IB students:
- Jessica Barry, a student at the University of Notre Dame
- Ryan Bergal, a student at the University of Michigan
- Margaret Colton, a student at the University of Chicago
- Heather Culbertson, a student at Evangel University
- Lila Grant, a student at Spelman College
- Julia Schweiterman, a student at Purdue University
- Nicholas Thompson, a student at Northeastern University
- Lauren Torian, a student at the University of Chicago
- Kira VanVoorhees, a student at Wellesley College
- Isabel Weber, a student at the University of Notre Dame
- Shaleahk Wilson, a student at Northwestern University
These graduates were just the second H-F class to earn the IB diploma. They received their notifications in July after their portfolios and test scores were sent to readers around the world who assessed whether the H-F graduates met the IB criteria.
“These students are excellent ambassadors for Homewood-Flossmoor High School and for the greater H-F community,” said Superintendent Von Mansfield. “We are so very proud of them, and we look forward to seeing what they will accomplish in their promising futures ahead.”
Margaret Colton said the kinds of discussions students had in the IB courses have made a difference for her at the University of Chicago.
“It has helped me express my ideas with my peers now,” she said. The IB program “was a rigorous workload,” but she sees it now as “a stepping stone” to her college curriculum.
Colton, the daughter of Anne and Bob Colton of Homewood, will be majoring in biology, but hasn’t yet chosen a specialty.
Julia Schweiterman said after working through the IB program “I am more prepared on classes and studying. I think the transition from high school to college was easier.”
Schweiterman believes having the IB curriculum on her transcript got her acceptance at each of the six universities she applied to. The daughter of Joe and Nancy Schweiterman of Flossmoor plans to major in industrial engineering at Purdue.
H-F is one of a handful of Illinois high schools offering an IB diploma program. Matt Knoepke, a science teacher at H-F, serves as IB coordinator.
“The IB Diploma Programme is an international organization developed back in 1960s by diplomats for their children because they really didn’t have good international education, so its been well documented and researched and expanded,” said Nancy Spaniak, director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, who worked with teachers to get H-F into the IB program.
H-F chose to start an IB component because “we wanted to provide an opportunity for our most actively talented students that would be beyond AP (advanced placement). AP’s done a great job for our students, but AP is kind of like a cafeteria. We have 23 courses and you pick and choose. There’s no programmatic aspect to it,” she said.
IB students must meet the requirements of six specific groups: English; foreign language; social sciences; physics; math and arts/music.
“In addition to taking the IB courses in each of these six groups to earn a diploma, students have to take a course called Theory of Knowledge which is a wonderful course that really explores what knowledge is in all the content areas,” Spaniak said giving this example: “What is math knowledge, and how does math knowledge relate to the scientific knowledge, linguistic knowledge.”
Each IB student also must complete a service project, and write an extended essay of 4,000 words that’s done outside of the regular classroom curriculum.
Schweiterman, with her sister, Marcia, helped develop a vegetable garden at H-F that was underwritten by an alumnus. Her extended essay was an examination of the Toyota Prius, the first hybrid car in the U.S. car market. She considered how competitors then entered the market.
For a project that extensive, Schweiterman took a year conducting her research from December of her junior year through summer and then took several months of her senior year to write the essay.
“The students get guidance in their Theory of Knowledge class and from our librarians, but they write (the essay) on their own,” Spaniak said.