By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
For the past 10 years, the International Baccalaureate program at Oakland High School has cultivated a culture of curiosity among a tightknit community of high-achieving students.
In that time, graduates of the program have earned several Fulbright scholarships and been a finalist as a Rhodes Scholar, enrolled in Ivy League universities, and studied everything from finance, law, leadership, politics, engineering, aerospace and medicine.
Austin Hornsby, who graduated in 2010, is an F-16 pilot in the United State Air Force. Hornsby said he has the “coolest job I could have ever dreamed of.”
“It started with the IB classes in high school,” he wrote in an email. “People ask me all the time how I got to be a fighter pilot, and I say because I went to the Air Force Academy. I never would have been accepted to, or succeeded at, USAFA without IB.”
Prior to going overseas, Hornsby joked he was going “to bring the IB diploma fury to the bad dudes downrange.”
Past graduates have found themselves traveling, working and living in exotic locales.
Eric Peters was a Fulbright Scholar in Prague, Savannah Caffey is currently in Madagascar, Warner Fuston is in Korea and Jarrod Hargis recently traveled to the United Republic of Tanzania, Africa, where he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Not everyone has gone overseas.
Phillip Dodd was in Washington, D.C., where he worked for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who represents Alaska, for more than three years. Sadie Hampton was in Ohio before taking a new position in Tampa, Florida, with Royal Caribbean International.
Alan Phrommala is currently attending Emory University and Josh Walker is at Auburn University, while Alvin Synarong is currently a sophomore at Princeton University.
IB graduates are spread out from New York City – Jackson Vaught works on Wall Street – down to Atlanta and all the way up to Seattle, Washington. Others are closer to home – Chattanooga, Knoxville and Huntsville, Alabama – and, of course, many of them remain here in the Middle Tennessee region.
Witnessing what others have achieved through the IB program provides an incentive for the current students in the program, Oakland Principal John Marshall said.
“It’s always good for them to see the success of the students who have gone before them,” Marshall said, “and the opportunities that increase for them based on the education available to them through the IB program.”
Kalkidan Dejene, a senior IB diploma candidate, began planning the Festival of Nations last spring. The senior IB diploma candidate worked with Quintana Lytle to create the October event as a way of acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of Oakland’s student body.
It was held during homecoming week.
The project was entirely student-driven.
Students and parents set up culturally diverse information tables based on their own backgrounds. More than 15 countries were represented and each of the displays included artifacts and objects that symbolize their countries, traditional music and dance, and authentic food.
Kalkidan said she conceived the idea — student projects like this are integral to the IB experience — as a way to introduce various ethnic groups and “to help everyone to learn to appreciate the diversity that is present at my school.”