IDAHO FALLS — Teens attending Alturas Preparatory Academy in Idaho Falls have the opportunity to enroll in a globally recognized program designed to help them graduate high school “equipped to succeed in a rapidly evolving world.”
Alturas has been authorized to offer its students an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for juniors and seniors. The diploma program is a pre-university course of study, similar to Advanced Placement classes, Principal Brian Bingham told EastIdahoNews.com.
“It’s comparable to the advanced placement in the sense that there’s a course and then there’s an exam, but it’s a lot more rigorous,” he says.
The kids don’t sit for exams at the end of each semester; instead, they have exams at the end of their two years in the program. This ensures they’ve internalized the knowledge and developed analytical and critical thinking.
“That’s part of the reason that we wanted to become an international baccalaureate school,” he explains. “Because their philosophy of an education is developing the whole student, not just having them … get good grades.”
Graduates with a baccalaureate diploma have a significant advantage as they progress in their academic careers, according to Jennifer Campbell, administrative manager and academic advisor at the school.
“When they go on to college, they’re used to taking that level of class because that’s what they’ve been doing their junior and senior year,” she explains.
Graduates will also have an edge when it comes to admissions, Campbell says.
“If they want to go to an Ivy League school or a top-tier school, they’re more likely to get in,” she states. “The universities recognize this as being a very rigorous program.”
Benson Fitch is one of the juniors who started the program this year. He believes having the degree will help him with his aeronautics career. After high school, he’d like to enter a program at the University of Utah, Embry-Riddle University in Seattle, Washington, or even the Air Force Academy.
“It is really helping me to get to where I need to be with knowledge, but also helping me get into colleges that would have really good programs,” he says.
There are about a dozen juniors in the diploma program. They’re about six months in now and say the program isn’t for everyone. Success isn’t handed to you just because you’re in the program. It’s “pretty tough” and a lot of work.
“The workload is a lot more in the (program). Subjects are much harder,” Oliver Nathan explains. “Generally, expectations are higher, as well. And there’s also more work in every single class.”
Geordie Van Witbeck wants to join the FBI. He says the diploma program is helping him prepare for the “rather brutal workload” that will come with his chosen profession.
“There’s going to be a ton of work that comes with the FBI,” he says. “So this is just getting desensitized to the work.”
But, along with the hard work and challenging curriculum comes many benefits, they say.
“I really love the program. I think it’s an amazing opportunity,” Van Bitbeck says. “Some of the best times I’ve had in my classes was in this course … partly because of the difficulty of the curriculum.”
He says he thinks he would be “getting very bored very fast” in regular high school classes.
“I think that … the most important skill that you can have is time management because there is a lot of work, but you can get through it,” Nathan says. “You can manage it well as long as you work very hard to manage all of your time properly.”
“There’s an amount of skill involved,” Fitch agrees.
The group also enjoys the dynamic they share with their teachers and each other.
“I think it’s more of a back-and-forth relationship rather than teaching us,” Mayo explains.
“And also with other students,” Finch adds. “There’s a lot more collaboration. There’s a lot more, I guess, community. We take all the same classes together, except for electives, and kind of get to know everybody and get alright with everybody.”
The focus on collaboration will help the teens be better world citizens, Bingham says.
“Let’s focus on helping these students develop into citizens that can contribute to their local community, their national community and even the global community,” he says.
Some students, like Fitch and Van Bitbeck, already have a career in mind, but most are there for the foundation the degree will give them. They don’t want to narrow down their options too soon, they told EastIdahoNews.com.
“We’re preparing our students for a future that doesn’t exist yet,” Bingham says. “Especially in the technology age that we live in now, we really need to be teaching some of the soft skills that are going to be transferable to whatever career they choose.”
Alturas is accepting applications for the 2024-2025 school year until the end of March, when students will be accepted via lottery. To learn more, visit the school’s website.