by Larry Austin
Kimberly Yaeger isn't avoiding hard work in her senior year of high school.
Yaeger is among the first group of Grand Island High School students enrolled in the new International Baccalaureate program at the school that has raised the workload for participating students. That's OK with Yaeger.
"I don't really work very well without a challenge. I guess it gives me motivation to get somewhere, and I would really like to succeed in college, and I think taking the harder classes and having a lot of work will really help me prepare for it," she said.
The program has 16 students so far, with Yaeger one of two seniors.
"Most people did not do it because it was unfamiliar, but I wanted to try something new," Yaeger said. "It seemed better than (Advanced Placement)."
The Grand Island Board of Education supported implementation of the program, with its additional costs, in an effort to raise the academic bar for students, saying they based their decision in part on feedback from recent GIHS graduates in college who said high school work wasn't hard enough.
"I definitely think it prepares you a lot better than AP. Our English class, for example, it's a lot of work. It's probably the hardest class that we have," Yaeger said. "It's college-level writing. We're pretty much taking the first two years of college English."
Yaeger said there are six core classes, plus a class called Theory of Knowledge.
"It's very different. IB is very discussion-based, which is different than most high school classes," she said, calling Theory of Knowledge informal but "more personal," and less structured. She said the presentations force students to participate rather than allow them to sit and take notes in a lecture-based class. Also, her senior year will include an extended essay of at least 4,000 words, which Yaeger called "kind of like a small masters thesis."
"I think I'm going to be really prepared for the humanities," she said.
According to the IB literature: "The aim of all IB program is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world." Toward that aim, a component of the IB program involves more extensive community service work than the 10 hours students typically complete. It's an element of the program that appeals to Yaeger as well. In the fall, she organized and led St. Timothy Lutheran Church's efforts in the Buffalo CROP Walk, raising more than $1,000 for hunger relief programs, in concert with Resurrection Lutheran Church in Buffalo.
"I personally like it," she said of the service component, "but I was always very active in my community through church youth group, so that, personally, was an another attribute. I would be able to be involved more. I like that everyone's required to do 10 hours because I think you can get a lot out of helping your community. For IB, you need 150 hours, but it's very open to what you can do it terms of projects."