EL PASO, Texas - A school program designed to save students time and money for college is expanding in El Paso.
The International Baccalaureate program, or IB program, is known as the most rigorous for advanced academics offered to students.
Paulina Hernandez, a social studies teach at El Dorado High School, is the school's IB coordinator.
"The curriculum we teach here in the program is international. It's international English literature, math studies. We teach history of the Americas and we don't just focus on the U.S.," she said. "We focus on China's history, Canada's history, Latin America's history, foreign languages and all types of fines arts classes too. But they are in an international scope."
Hernandez says Ivy League schools take notice when a student graduates from an IB program.
"IB students are known to graduate in the top 10 students, valedictorian and salutatorians, as well as in the 10 percent," Hernandez said. "It does offer a wide range of academics and self motivated activities that encourage the students to explore things and create for themselves a well-rounded student."
The program is not just about academics.
"It's also about how can you take what you learn in the classroom and apply it to the real world. We are in a global society now, so people are wanting to look into how can we contribute to making a better society," Hernandez said.
The popularity of the program is growing. In the Socorro Independent School District the program is only offered at El Dorado High School. But the district is now accepting applicants from students outside the district.
Mariana Sigala is an IB student.
"The teachers are very helpful. They really prepare you for any obstacle that IB gives you and that is something that I really admire from the teachers here at El Dorado," Sigala said.
Sigala plans on studying mechanical engineering and computer science, and feels she is ready for college.
"One of the biggest benefits of this program is ultimately the college readiness that comes from it. Because students are not just putting in work academically, but also outside of the school hours, by being part of the community by doing research even," Hernandez said. "That's another component. Colleges enjoy seeing that a student has been part of an IB program where much of the university level type of work has already been learned through their high school years because of this program."
Sigala, like many of her fellow IB students, is saving time and money.
"If a student graduates with what we call a baccalaureate diploma, in the state of Texas they can receive up to 24 equivalent college credit hours," Hernandez said.
The IB program is also available at El Paso and Ysleta Independent School Districts.
EPISD spokesperson Melissa Martinez said the program has been in place at Coronado for 20 years and is now expanding to Andress High School and three middle schools.
"Students who are interested in this program need to enroll their sophomore years for incoming juniors. it is a junior and senior program. This year we are also expanding it. We have expanded it to our middle schools. It is the middle year program. And those are being offered at Moorhead, Lincoln and Richardson because they feed to Coronado and Andress," Martinez said.
The IB program at the three EPISD middle schools are campus-wide.
While the program is tough, Sigala is thankful she took on the challenge and encourages other students to enroll.
"A student should not be afraid of taking IB," she said. "They should take that fear if they do have it and go ahead an pursue it. Since what you take from IB at the end is something that is going to change your future, especially for college."
Interested students are encouraged to check with their district for application instructions.