CHS grads take full advantage of challenging IB experience

When 536 students graduated from Claremont High School on Thursday, June 14, it was easy to view those receiving diplomas as a sea of caps and gowns.

As any proud parent or loving family member knows, however, each young person participating in the timeworn ritual is very much an individual, with a story all their own.

For 2 of these new grads, the story includes a new chapter in the history of CHS, an innovative course of study called the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program.

Pranay Yeturu and Nicole Clark are among the second crop of students to receive diplomas from the 2-year program initiated at CHS in 2009. The IB program offers participating juniors and seniors advanced academics while emphasizing writing, interdisciplinary learning, teamwork, community engagement and a global perspective.

IB students enjoy high acceptance rates at the schools of their choice and may be granted college-level credits for their work. This year’s grads will head for Brown, Smith, Wellesley, Harvey Mudd, UC Berkeley and beyond.

Student’s success stems from balance

International Baccalaureate students like the 50-plus who walked at the recent commencement are expected to strive for qualities like curiosity, open-mindedness, thoughtfulness and balance.

Pranay, who is going on to Pomona College after graduating with a cumulative 4.53 GPA, exemplifies the latter.

His grades reflect a huge quantity of study time and an equal effort boning up on issues and current affairs to support his passionate 4-year engagement with CHS’s speech and debate program. His favorite event is humorous interpretation, where participants adapt a piece of literature into a 10-minute, one-person show.

Despite his academic dedication, Pranay has embraced the old adage…“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” A fan of rap and hip-hop, he can bust out a mean beat-box. In fact, Pranay provided rhythmic accompaniment for a group of boys who performed an a cappella version of Yael Naim’s “New Soul” at commencement.

Pranay also played varsity tennis for 4 years, helping the Wolfpack win its 7th consecutive Sierra League title and proving himself to be “pretty damn talented,” according to head boys varsity tennis coach Louise Miclat.

“Pranay knew how to get the team riled up as far as spirit goes,” Coach Miclat said. “He is always the one to say, ‘Come on, this is silly. We can win today!’”

The same intelligence that helped the student athlete excel in the classroom is evident on the courts as well, Coach Miclat noted.

“He is so smart—he is one of the most intellectual teenagers I’ve known,” she said. “Whenever he plays the game, he knows exactly what he does wrong and fixes it immediately.”

Teachers also rave about Pranay. His mathematics instructor and IB coordinator Linda Saeta said he brings “immense curiosity” and a “happy, quizzical demeanor” to class.

“He’s just really open to a lot of interesting ideas, and he likes to put things together in a very creative way,” she said. “In a stats class, he’ll put together numbers and trends in a way that’s sort of in the 4th dimension.”

Pranay says he chose the IB program for the interconnectedness of the curriculum. The debating and beat-boxing champ was also drawn to the emphasis on communication¸ something at which he is adept. 

“He can make you believe almost anything,” Ms. Saeta said.

Given his persuasive power, it is fitting that Pranay plans to study public policy and office in college. While he is looking forward to new endeavors, Pranay will miss CHS and his fellow IB students.

“All the kids in IB have a lot of classes together, so it’s a little community in its own right,” he said. “It’s not a bad thing, because the students are intelligent and fun to be around.” 

Moving on, giving back

The International Baccalaureate Program’s emphasis on community engagement is what appealed to 2012 CHS grad Nicole Clark.

“IB worked for who I was as a person—that’s why I was successful,” said Nicole who, after earning a cumulative 4.52 GPA, heads to Yale this fall.

Nicole coaches youth volleyball and, as a freshman, became one of 8 teen co-founders of Simply Savant, a nonprofit organization providing educational support to at-risk kids.

At first, the aim of Simply Savant was narrow: provide books for local Boys & Girls Clubs.

When members realized the clubs lacked academic resources, they developed a summer program in which volunteers teach English, math and science to youths in fifth through eighth grades from 8 a.m. to lunchtime for 4-6 weeks. 

This summer, Simply Savant, which now has about 40-50 members, will operate camps at Boys & Girls Clubs in Pomona, Pasadena, La Puente and Fair Oaks.

“It ended up being really perfect,” Nicole said of the teaching opportunity. “I’ve met a lot of very bright kids, a lot of whom have parents that aren’t very involved in their lives. I felt humbled by the opportunity to teach them.”

Nicole has discovered there’s a Boys & Girl Club in New Haven, Connecticut, so she plans to take Simply Savant to the national level when she heads to Yale.

Founding and maintaining a nonprofit organization is a daunting task for anyone, let alone a teen. But Nicole, who served as president of the IB Club, is “amazingly efficient,” said Ms. Saeta. 

“Nicole is someone who sees a complicated project and then gets it done,” she said. “If we needed to do an orientation for the incoming class or about the extended essay for the juniors, she’d say, ‘I’ll get it organized’ and 24 hours later everyone knew where they were going and what they were doing.”

Nicole, who attended Foothill Country Day School through eighth grade, is a San Dimas resident. She chose to attend high school in Claremont after hearing about the IB program at CHS, one of only 77 IB World Schools in California.

She’s been happy with her choice, and her extra-curricular pursuits have dovetailed perfectly with many assignments.  For instance, when it came time for her to write her IB extended essay (a 10-15 page project to be written between the junior and senior year) Nicole wrote about California education and reflected on her Simply Savant experiences.

The IB curriculum has been challenging but rewarding, Nicole said.

“I liked how deeply we approached subjects. It’s no longer just surface-level or a cursory examination of topics but an in-depth exploration of ideas and what our peers have to say,” she explained.

As she moves onto college, where she will major in economics, physics or global affairs, Nicole leaves behind some great CHS memories.

“In hindsight, IB is a lot like having a school within a school,” she said. “It’s a close group of about 60 people in your grade, and I’ve developed really close friendships with all of them.”

—Sarah Torribio


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