Monday, August 19, 2013

International Baccalaureate Diplomas awarded to WAIS graduates

Thirteen graduating seniors enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Westchester Academy for International Studies (WAIS), the award-winning district charter secondary school, have earned an internationally recognized IB Diploma.

Program Coordinator Valerie Harelson reports that a little more than half of the school’s 24 students received this distinction. To earn their IB Diplomas, students devote their junior and senior years to fulfilling program requirements in English, a foreign language, math, science, history or social studies, and fine arts, as well as a Theory of Knowledge course.

Students also write a lengthy research paper, fulfill other class activities and participate in many activities, including traditional community service projects.

IB Diploma recipients this year include the district’s only Gates Millennium Scholar, Bushra Bangash, who plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a German Bilingual Diploma recipient, Juliane Berger.

“The students who have earned their IB Diploma this year represent an awesome variety of interests from architecture to international relations, music, biology and mathematics. They all worked hard; some have a wonderful sense of humor and others are more serious,” Coordinator Harelson said.

An IB science requirement was a Group 4 Project where students chose a theme and developed projects around that theme. This year’s theme was biomimicry, a new science that studies models from nature and then uses these designs and processes to solve human problems.

“Students worked in groups to create products that mimicked some feature of nature that would solve a problem faced by people today. I learn as much from the students and their research as I hope that they learn from me in history class,” Coordinator Harelson adds. “They are all great kids, and I will miss them, but I look forward to our new group of IB students and repeating the process.”

IB Coordinator Harelson a history instructor, has taught in Venezuela, Kuwait and South Korea.

German Bilingual Diploma recipient Juliane Berger grew up in Boxberg, a small town in south Germany. Juliane moved to Houston with her family and entered WAIS in 10th grade.

“My English was not very good. I did not know English terms well, but by my senior year I got used to the language and all the IB homework, too,” she says.

Her goal is to study education in Karlsruhe, Germany, the site of Paedgogische Hochschule, and to be an elementary school teacher. “I’ve always loved working with children, and I don’t want to work in an office all day,” she says.

At WAIS, she was a member of both French and German Honor Societies and the National Honor Society.

Eric Alexander will enter the University of Texas at Austin this fall. He plans to major in architecture with an emphasis in the new field of therapeutic architecture. “The IB program and this school helped me pick courses that prepared and helped me know what I wanted to do. This program really helps you come out of your box,” he says.

At WAIS, he was secretary in Mu Alpha Theta, the math society. A member of the Advanced Choir, Eric played the character Kenickie in “Grease” and Jack in “Into the Woods.”

  Dorian Granizo, who is headed to chemical engineering at Rice University, says that IB prepared him to think deeply rather than check off a standard course list of essays, tests and quizzes. Math and science are his favorite subjects. He also holds Tae Kwon Do medals.

Tatyana Guy is headed to the University of Houston, but she plans to transfer to the Texas A&M, where she hopes to major in zoology. An intern at the Houston Zoo, she dreams one day of doing research far, far away – maybe in Africa with wild animals. She wants to be a veterinarian.

“I think that IB is more rigorous than AP or Pre-AP courses. It’s challenging because it is hard. You feel good about yourself, and feel that you are doing this with a family as a part of the IB program,” she also said.

Since it opened more than a decade ago, WAIS has received the nation’s highest ranking from the U.S. Department of Education, the Blue Ribbon School designation.

IB Diploma graduates and their college/university choices include:
  • Eric Alexander, University of Texas at Austin
  • Bushra Bangash, University of Texas at Austin (Gates Millennium Scholar)
  • Juliane Berger, Undecided, (German Bilingual Diploma)
  • Dorian Granizo, Rice University
  • Tatyana Guy, University of Houston
  • David Kassir, Rice University
  • Brittany McCune, Texas A&M University at College Station
  • Emily McKitrick, Colorado State University at Fort Collins
  • Sandra Reyes, Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas
  • Emerald Rodriguez, Texas A&M University at College Station
  • Balil Tariq, University of Houston
  • Jay Wang, University of Texas at Austin
  • Reina Wong, Texas A&M University at College Station


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