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International Baccalaureate Program Offers Students Many Benefits for their Future


International Baccalaureate Program Offers Students Many Benefits for their Future

IB students Manny Sanchez,  Claire Toomey, and Ray Bernard The stresses of the college application season is just about winding down, as students now  anticipate learning where they are accepted and, ultimately, which school they will attend. But next year at this time, the newly minted college freshmen will be dealing with other challenges such as transitioning to the academic demands of higher education. Three Red Bank Regional (RBR) students were recently interviewed about a program they decided to pursue which they believe will serve them well once they transition to college.  The RBR International Baccalaureate (IB) program debuted in September of 2009-2010 school year and was available to upper classman. RBR is one of only four schools in Monmouth County that offers this rigorous and internationally renowned program with only 12 high schools offering the program in the entire state of New Jersey.       

            What is so special about the IB program? Three of the students seeking the IB diploma explain it in their own words.

            Ray Bernard of Red Bank believes it gives you a real “international perspective.” 

As an example he explains, “For several weeks we skyped with a class of Swedish students building a relationship.  Our classes were both reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale, and we were discussing feminism with them.”

            Manny Sanchez, also of Red Bank, was apprehensive at first, when his guidance counselor recommended he enroll in IB program. Like Ray, he hoped to be the first in his family to attend college.

            He states, “I went from regular classes to taking this and with all the special writing I had to do, I feel so much better prepared than I ever thought for college.”

            Claire Toomey was gravitated to the program because of her writing skills and interest in world events.  She feels both interests have been only nurtured and expanded by the program.

            She states, “It influenced my decision to join the school newspaper and really delve into current events. It is really cool having discussions with students and teachers in class which expanded my thinking and led me to wanting to put my writing out there.”

            The classes are interactive, creative in their design, and in-depth.

            Ray Bernard comments, “You just don’t learn facts to take a test, you really learn the subject and everything is connected, like what we are studying in math is connected to psychology.”

            Claire offers another example stating, “When we learned about the Spanish Civil War, we didn’t just learn why America got involved but how things developed.  Our teacher has us reading multiple historians, which teaches everyone that you can’t always just trust one source.”

            The IB program does not require prerequisite courses and, therefore, is open to any motivated student in the school. Requirements to obtain the IB diploma include completing six core subject classes and the IB signature Theory of Knowledge course. Additional requirements include a 4,000 word essay and the completion of continuous activities outside the classroom over 2 years (sports, extracurricular and community service). Students can take IB courses as electives or in place of their core classes without seeking the diploma. They are eligible to receive college credit for each IB course they complete. College course credit requires passage of end-term exams which are graded by an external panel and other assessments conducted throughout the courses which are graded internally.

            Ryan Hilligus has coordinated the program at RBR for several years. The school has graduated five classes of IB diploma students with 10 to 20 graduates in each class. Many more students, however, are encouraged to take the individual classes with 259 students currently enrolled in IB classes.

            Mr. Hilligus cites another great benefit of the IB program, stating, “Documentation shows that the college acceptance rate is much higher for IB students versus non-IB students. ( See

            Additionally, he states, “IB graduates, particularly students who participated in the full diploma program, say they feel so much more prepared for college, and that they do not see that much difference from what they are doing at college versus what they did at RBR.”           

            Also, in these days of sky-high college tuition, the benefit of college credit offered by many colleges for IB programs is most beneficial.

            Case in point, Mr. Hilligus cites a student from a Colorado college who was granted 33 credits from the IB program.

            “Now she is debating whether to graduate early or schedule another major or minor,” he explains.

            While the courses are challenging, RBR has put enough supports in place to help each student succeed.

            For instance, Mr. Hilligus explains, “We have a big-little relationship set up whereby the senior big may counsel a junior little. It is someone they know they can trust who will support them through the process. Also, the diploma students have study hall with me every day, so that I can give them additional support through the process.”

            Perhaps one of the unintended but best benefits of the program is the camaraderie that is built among the students. Ryan Hillgus hears from IB alumni that they are still a very tight group well after graduation.

            Claire states, “We have such a strong support network for each other and I feel I made such great friendships.”

            For more information on the International Baccalaureate program visit its website at