BY KARISSA MILLER
Four students expressed their support for Oakwood Middle School International Baccalaureate (IB) World School during the recent Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education meeting.
“We have a very deep sense of community,” said student Ace Johnson. “One thing that solidified this for me was that in sixth grade one of our peers Talon Dyson had a dirt bike accident over our winter break.”
“This brought students and staff together, creating an environment very parallel to family,” she added.
Johnson said that students who are normally “apprehensive” were going to their teachers for advice. As a result, they established a bond and sense of community among one another.
“This event really emphasized to me that Oakwood teachers and staff aren’t just that. They are really close like family, and they are people who are going to stick with each other through thick and thin,” she said.
Student Leighton Highley shared her personal connection to the IB program through her seventh-grade community service project.
“At Oakwood, we have to complete community service hours through Service as Action. It’s one of the reasons our school is so different from other middle schools,” she said.
Highley said that she volunteered at Fifth Street Ministries along with some of her peers.
“Being able to help and see all the smiles we made was an amazing opportunity,” she said. “This reflected the open-minded IB learner trait out of our 10 IB learner traits. Open-minded means you are willing to experience new things.”
Additionally, Oakwood students have the opportunity to learn a foreign language, including French, Mandarin or Spanish, and take a design class.
Highley said that in their design class they participate in coding, creating books, marketing and many other projects. She said that they had the opportunity to code and work with robots.
In addition to the academic benefits of the program, student Kailan Alspaugh told the board about the many clubs that they have, including Chess, Creative Writing and Battle of the Books.
“In clubs, we get to meet new people in different grades, especially for the new kids who have only one person that they know,” said Alspaugh, who has participated in Battle of the Books throughout middle school.
Alspaugh told the board that through his fine arts classes he has been able to take band and learn how to play the flute and saxophone.
“Now I’m able to read music and keep rhythm,” he said.
Student Grayson Griggs spoke about the sports opportunities that are offered at Oakwood. Oakwood’s volleyball team has three championships in four years and the wrestling team had four individual wrestling champions in the last year.
“Athletic programs promote qualities like hard work, inclusivity, sportsmanship, goal setting and team work,” he said. “These aspects of athletics tie directly into many of the IB learner profile traits that Oakwood works to instill in many students.”
What makes Oakwood special, Griggs said, are the teachers and staff.
“They are truly amazing. They are always there for us whenever we need assistance,” he said, noting that they are driven by a desire to help students excel.
Following the presentations, the students received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Principal Carrie Tulbert explained that students from all over the county come to the school specifically to take IB courses.
“We have a unique opportunity at Oakwood to bring all these students together to try to create a new sense of community. … We have this beautiful challenge to create this sense of community within our own school,” she said, noting that Service as Action is a great opportunity for them to form bonds and friendships.
The school has grown to 549 students compared to 440 students four years ago.