The 23 students participating in Dublin Coffman High School's inaugural year of the International Baccalaureate program don't seem to mind being guinea pigs.

The 23 students participating in Dublin Coffman High School's inaugural year of the International Baccalaureate program don't seem to mind being guinea pigs.

In fact, as they showed off work from one portion of the program during the CAS Fair last week, the juniors seemed proud.

"It's something to challenge yourself with," junior Alex Hyland said. "It's good for your grades and it's a good final push before college."

The two-year IB diploma program gives students coursework such as foreign language, social studies, math, art and science; at the core of the program is a theory of knowledge course, an extended essay and CAS, or creativity, action and service.

Last week's fair in the Coffman library gave students a chance to show what they've learned through the creativity, action and service part of the program, which they must complete on their own.

Over the two years of the IB diploma program, students must complete 150 hours of CAS.

"It is the full embodiment of what the IB organization hopes the student becomes," said Coffman CAS coordinator Melanie Hitsman.

For students at the fair, creativity includes music, art or just creative thinking.

Olivia Anand said the creativity part of CAS runs alongside the other elements.

"I actually thought I would like service the most because I've done that before," she said. "I like creativity the most. It's all across the board."

Anand said she used creativity when thinking up fundraisers for the school's Spanish Club.

The aim of the action part of CAS is to keep the students in a "healthy lifestyle," Hitsman said.

Students can count hours spent in high school sports practice, and participation ranges from swimming and golf to fencing and hockey.

Matt Hockman joined swimming as part of CAS this year.

"It's not normally something I'd do," he said. "But I picked it up and I'm going to swim next year."

For the service portion of CAS, student activities ranged from helping out at Canine Collective, doing landscaping for St. Brigid of Kildare Catholic Church and volunteering at Dublin Methodist Hospital.

Samar Mandourah spends time volunteering at Dublin Methodist and joined the American Cancer Society for CAS.

"CAS is a huge part (of the IB program) because it teaches us to be well-rounded. If not for CAS I wouldn't be involved in a lot of stuff I am," she said.

While CAS helps students help the community, it also teaches them to go outside their comfort zone and try new things.

Adrian Gomez always has been involved in music and band, but CAS gave him the focus to concentrate on service. This year he did a trick-or-treat food collection and organized a program that brings music lessons to Columbus City Schools.

"It wasn't like I wasn't doing service activities, but something else was always interfering," he said. "Now it comes first."

While the 23 students blazing the IB diploma trails at Coffman High School are busy, they appreciate what the program has done for them.

During last week's fair, Buck Horn outlined the CAS experience that led him to youth leadership conferences and the Youth-to-Youth program.

"It changed me," he said during a presentation. "It was the greatest experience I've ever had."

Gomez expressed similar sentiments.

"CAS really has made me a better person, as cheesy as that sounds," he said.

Hitsman, who called the students "extraordinary," agreed.

"CAS provides a nice counter-balance to academics," she said.

Coffman's IB diploma class of 2010 includes Hassan Abdulahi, Duna Alkaleileh, Olivia Anand, Jillian Buckley, Allyson Chee, Justin Chee, Michael Chee, Paige Cordle, Brian Forman, Akansha Ganju, Adrian Gomez, Matt Hockman, Buck Horn, Alex Hyland, Daniel Jaung, John Kieffer, Jon Le, Robbie Marrietti, Samar Mandourah, Jon Marsh, Shreeya Mathew, Jake Preston and Jon Puckett.

IB program ending first year of challenges

High school students across Dublin are getting ready to complete the first year of the International Baccalaureate program.

Coffman students have the diploma option only, but at Jerome and Scioto, students can choose to take the IB diploma or certificate program.

According to information from the district, the certificate program gives students the option to take individual IB courses without participating in the full program. "Individual IB courses are known as certificate courses because students are able to earn IB certificates based on their performance on the IB assessments for these classes," the district's IB information guide said.

The diploma program, however, requires students to take coursework in six subjects: English, a second language, social studies, experimental sciences, math and computer science and arts and electives.

The diploma program also requires students to take a theory of knowledge course, write an extended essay and complete 150 hours of creativity, action and service, or CAS.

According to Bryan Stork, Coffman High School's IB coordinator, IB students are together pretty much all day, but they also have time for electives such as band and choir.

"There is flexibility in the schedule," he said. "They do have other classes."

While the intensive IB program requires a lot of work, Stork said the goal is to make the program accessible to all students.

"We want to program to be as inclusive as possible," he said.

The only requirement needed to be in the IB program is to pass the Ohio Graduation Test as a sophomore, Stork said.

"We don't look at rank or GPA. We want students who want to challenge themselves," he said. "We have students who have never taken an honors class (in the program)."