Work doesn’t end at graduation for 30 enrolled in elite program


Seniors in the District 51 International Baccalaureate program:

Arielle Baker

Brian Barber

Michael Bou

Cory Castaneda

Isabella Castleton

Mackenzie Clark

Jaron Curtsinger

Amelia Davis

Matthew Farrell

Dylan Fortin

Owen Gartner

Joseph Gibson

Scott Goebel

Christopher Grigsby

Kolton Gustafson

John Hyde

BrieAnna Krueger

Benjamin Laro

Paul Lorenz

Maddison Myers

Cristhian Mirando-Soto

David Mok-Lamme

Amy Nees

Meghan Peters

Chelsea Pounds

Zachary Roberts

Nicholas Stephanus

Hannah Tredway

Terry Williams

Hannah Wilson

Sarah Inskeep-Mueller* * candidate for certificate rather than diploma

Pretend your senior year wasn’t over even after you received your diploma.

Some might think that a bummer, but for a select few Palisade High School students, that’s their reality.

At 8:30 on the morning after they graduate from Palisade,  30 seniors will return to the classroom for a 90-minute biology-assessment test. For the next week after their May 17 graduation, the 30 students will have to turn in at least four more papers, which are essentially essay tests, in three different subjects.

They are enrolled in School District 51’s relatively new International Baccalaureate program, which is housed at Palisade High School.

Some of the 30 students groan a little when they talk about this month.

“We all have senioritis,” said John Hyde, a student in the International Baccalaureate program. “But we all have to come to class.”

Application plus

The reasons why these 30 students subjected themselves to a rigorous International Baccalaureate course load was twofold. First, they said they wanted the academic challenge. Second, each student knows how attractive participation in an International Baccalaureate program appears on a college application.

And all 30 students plan to attend college.

The 30 students in the District 51 International Baccalaureate program have received a combined $2.2 million in merit-based college scholarships, said Tracy Arledge, the program coordinator. Students were awarded additional scholarship money since the April honor ceremony, Arledge said.

Arledge calculated that $2.2 million sum by taking each college scholarship offered to the students so far and multiplying it by four, because each scholarship is renewable.

That $2.2 million total averages out to nearly $73,000 per student, and it does not reflect any financial aid scholarships students may receive.

The hefty sum of scholarship money likely will be put to good use, because the list of colleges or universities the students wish to attend — or will attend — is reputable.

The list includes institutions such as Colorado School of Mines, Northwestern University, Denver University and Harvard.

An edge on college admissions is why Hyde, an aspiring biomedical engineer, applied to be in the International Baccalaureate program four years ago, he said. He has been accepted to Colorado School of Mines, but he has his sights on Stanford University.

No matter where Hyde or his classmates pursue post-secondary education, they will be prepared, Arledge said. As a 16-year educator, she is confident “there is no stronger schedule” than an International Baccalaureate schedule. Her husband, John Arledge, a teacher for 22 years, told her the International Baccalaureate program is the best thing he has seen in education.

Separate diploma

What makes International Baccalaureate so challenging is the academic expectation. In order to earn an International Baccalaureate diploma, which is separate from a Palisade High School diploma, the program’s students have to demonstrate scholastic aptitude in six different areas of study: English, a foreign language, history of the Americas, biology/chemistry, math and one elective, be it an art or business.

“You can’t hide in IB,” Tracy Arledge said. “It’s a full program, or it’s nothing.”

Students take tests and write papers in each subject for two years to prepare for the final assessments. If the students don’t pass tests in each subject, they don’t get the International Baccalaureate diploma, which comes with 24 hours of college credit accepted at any state institution, excluding Colorado School of Mines.

“In IB, you’re guaranteed to be in class with people who want to learn,” said International Baccalaureate student Jaron Curtsinger, who plans to major in economics and political science.

With so much time and college credit on the line, each of her 30 International Baccalaureate students will be in those seats at 8:30 a.m. May 18 to take a biology test, Arledge knows. The test will dictate whether they receive an IB diploma.

“They aren’t going to blow off this test,” Arledge said. “They’ve worked four years for this.”

This year’s class of International Baccalaureate diploma candidates is the second in District 51 since the program was accredited in the spring of 2007 by International Baccalaureate officials after a three-year accreditation process.

Based in Switzerland

International Baccalaureate is based in Switzerland and has nearly 796,000 students at 2,877 schools in 138 countries, according to the program’s website,

Arledge looks at more than grades, test scores and teacher recommendations when selecting students for the program. The 30 students this year are hard workers who participate in a slew of extracurricular activities such as sports, the arts or speech.

Arledge said if she lined up all of the Palisade High students and said pick out the IB kids, “You couldn’t. And that’s a good thing. It’s not weird to be pushing yourself.”

The application period for next year’s program has ended, and Arledge said 110 students applied, and 65 were accepted. Both are record numbers for the program.


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