They gathered as they always do in late December at the Bulldog Café on Flagler Palm Coast High School’s campus. It’s the most unassuming diploma ceremony you can imagine–a few cookies, a little punch, a few jokes and a brief speech then the handout of diplomas and certificates–but for students who have earned the right to be very assuming.
They’re the graduates of the annual IB class, the international baccalaureate program that, as rigors and commitment and suffering goes, is the rough academic equivalent of the special forces, a two-year program (four if you include pre-IB) that does a better job of weeding out candidates than finding them at the finish line: this year, 40 students, out of about 65 to 70 who’d started four years before, claimed IB diplomas or certificates. They didn’t find out whether they had done so until July, and they only claimed their actual papers when they gathered for that December ceremony, with parents and friends and snapshots, many of their teachers and handshakes from Superintendent Jim Tager and the IB program’s immutable patriarchs: Roger Tangney and Phil DeAugustino.
The entire graduating class has been off to college–14 colleges, most of them in Florida–but most of them converged home for Christmas, making attendance at the ceremony possible.
“Yes, you’re going to have to suffer through a few of my jokes tonight,” Tangney told the small assembly, words that amounted to an inside joke in itself among IB students: Tangney’s humor, which often rings with the misfires of pre-revolutionary muskets. “Well, you’ve all survived that precipice, so kudos to you,” he told the students after delivering one of those infamous jokes (that one was particularly so, and won’t be immortalized here.) “You’re onto a whole new stage now with many more precipices in front of you.”
But he was right: they’d survived to be in a world class by themselves. There were just 163,000 IB diploma candidates worldwide last year, 85,000 of them seniors. Fewer than 10,000 were in Florida. Among the seniors, 65 percent nationally and 74 percent in Florida earned their IB diploma. And there was this: “Although we’d rather certainly see a higher success rate among our students, your overall grade average still fell pretty close to the world average: FPC Class of 2018, 4.8. World average? 4.79.”
The average number of points earned was 29.7, out of a possible 42 for those who take the standard load of three higher-level disciplines, and three standard level. Each course is worth seven points, with 3 as a passing grade. Getting a 5 is considered more than honorable. A 6 places you near the gods. A 7 is so rare that it’s celebrated hall-of-fame fashion. The average earned in Florida by IB students was a combined 27.7 points. The IB Class of 2018 in Flagler managed a 29.
The advantage of the program is anything but academic.
FPC's IB Class of 2018: Their Colleges
|Dalton Mrazik||Daytona State College|
|Maegan Ryone||Daytona State College|
|Augusto Romero de Leon III||Duke University|
|Olivia Whitten||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University|
|Timothy Roeun||Florida Gulf Coast University|
|Mackenzie Latham||Florida State University|
|Jessica Middleton||Florida State University|
|Deividas Pupsys||Florida State University|
|Mia Alexa Scarcella||Florida State University|
|Claudia Matilda Vevera||Florida State University|
|Lance Fairbanks||Nova Northeastern University|
|Britney Cacoilo Pires||Nova Northeastern University|
|Ethan Chapman||Palm Beach Atlantic University|
|Lischna Angie Castor||Stetson University|
|Janine Jao||Trinity University of Asia (Philippines)|
|Briana Astrologo||University of Central Florida|
|Diego Baldassarri||University of Central Florida|
|Rich Cafe||University of Central Florida|
|Jayson Dwyer||University of Central Florida|
|Ernest Ardon||University of Florida|
|Sara Barnes||University of Florida|
|Sierra Gabrielle Bice||University of Florida|
|Saige Brey||University of Florida|
|Bingying Dong||University of Florida|
|Alexandra Feldman||University of Florida|
|Jason Gomes||University of Florida|
|Allie Marino||University of Florida|
|Matthew Thaddeus Mrnacaj||University of Florida|
|Andrew Secunda||University of Florida|
|Doug Seitz||University of Florida|
|Daniel Yevseyevich||University of Florida|
|Jessica Anderson||University of North Florida|
|Katelynn Covington||University of North Florida|
|Emily Koch||University of North Florida|
|Lexi Lindsley||University of North Florida|
|Max Romero||University of North Florida|
|Ciara Sprague||University of North Florida|
|Jessica Yaroszeufski||University of North Florida|
|Jian Kanindot||University of South Florida|
|Zaria George||Wellesley College|
“Some of our recent grads stopped by over the past week or so, and their stories were, not surprisingly, very familiar to the stories we’ve heard in the past,” Tangney said. “Probably the number one thing we hear every year is: my freshman year wasn’t as challenging as I thought it was going to be because I thought I had the preparation from the IB diploma program. Second-most common terms we heard were, my first semester, going into college as an undergraduate I’d earned so many credits thanks to IB that I either went in as a sophomore or I went in at least as a second-semester freshman. Some of you of course capitalized on the combination of both–IB scores and AP scores. If that’s any indication of at least the value of the program in terms of where you can advance quickly in an undergraduate program, proof is in the pudding.”
Andrew Secunda, 18, one of 12 IB students attending the University of Florida, was the top scorer in his class, managing 38 points with English, history and chemistry as his higher-level subjects. “It was just a lot of preparation and time management, starting well ahead of time and just I guess studying well, efficiently,” Secunda said. “IB taught me what to study and how to study so I don’t waste my time, and that’s helped this semester in college a lot.” No, it didn’t take all-nighters except once in a while, and he still managed to be involved in extra-curriculars, among them Habitat for Humanity and the National Honor Society. “It paid off immensely,” he says.
Florida wasn’t for Augusto Romero de Leon III. He’s attending Duke University. “I knew I wanted to go out of state and up north,” he said. “I wanted to put myself in a new environment, especially away from Florida, I guess away from people I knew and outside the climate of Florida, just to put myself in that atmosphere, to see myself grow as a person.” He wanted to have “a decent distance from family” to foster his independence and to interact with more people nationally and internationally, “to put myself in different cultures and try to learn from them.”
That, too, is part of the IB spirit, something Tangney focused on for a few minutes before the handing out of diplomas. He placed the graduating class in the context of change going back centuries. He said at a recent World Economic Forum, conglomerates such as Sony, Microsoft, Mozilla, General Motors, Sales Force, Ali Baba and the American Heart Association all expressed concerns over humanity’s preparedness for the Industrial Revolution 4.0, 1 being steam, 2 being electricity and mass production, 3 being computers and the internet. And 4? “Cyber-physical systems, networking and, check this out, where barriers between humans and machines dissolve,” Tangney said–that is, artificial intelligence.
That, he told the students, is where they are as they graduate.
The topmost skills required to make it through this new revolution, he said, citing the same forum, include problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision-making, and so on.
The list might as well be the IB learner profile. “You embody those 10 skills,” Tangney told the graduates, “not only based on your IB experience but based on your own knowledge, your own wherewithal, your own acumen. On one level you’ve already proven your value, and now you’re on the next level, and you will become the next global citizens who promote and prosper in this new industrial revolution.”