IB students find new ways to give back

With community service being a part of Odessa High School’s International Baccalaureate program and COVID-19 still present in the community, students and teachers have had to find new ways of fulfilling that aspect of the curriculum.
Lee Jordan, AP world history, International Baccalaureate history teacher and CAS coordinator, said his students have pursued a variety of projects from pen pals across the world to giving goodie bags to children at High Sky Children’s Ranch and making blankets for the Odessa Animal Shelter.
Jordan said IB students take six or seven extremely difficult courses, but it’s the only program in the world that includes development of the person.
He noted that the essays mentioned run 4,000 words.
“Then you’ve got TOK, which is a theory of knowledge class … But they also have the CAS, which is really designed to focus on the kid, help them grow, help them learn exactly what these girls are talking about. How to give back; how to be more than just somebody who knows a bunch of stuff out of a textbook,” Jordan said.
Gerad Sandate, senior, said Sejal Yadalla, a fellow senior in the class, devised the pen pal venture, which Sandate said started last year.
Sandate has a pen pal from Thailand. They have learned the similarities and differences between what they are taught in Odessa and what his pen pal learns in Thailand.
Sandate said they correspond via email.
“… I have a pen pal from Thailand and he was saying that over there that the economy has been really affected, but also their way of life and that they don’t know what to believe, basically. So I’m like, the same thing here,” Sandate said.
He added that one of the major issues in Thailand is exploitation of immigrants. Despite COVID, they still use immigrant workers to do labor in the country.
Sandate said he has another pen pal in Luxembourg who said it’s been a difficult time there, but she’s adjusting and she can handle it.
Yadalla said it’s nice to see how much they have in common with their peers in far off places.
“… I think this program is cool because even though we’re taught so many different things, it still brings us together because we all have the same extended essay. We have the same papers and subjects, so sharing those — that struggle and joy of being in the program is just a really cool thing that I’m glad that we could bring to everybody in our class,” Yadalla added.
Aakash Angirekula, senior, said he was paired with a pen pal from the Bahamas. He said he’s enjoyed emailing back and forth.
“… We’re talking about like the classes that that she likes and we also, we had some classes in common that we both enjoy. I also want to become a doctor, which is kind of funny she wants to become a doctor as well. …,” Angirekula said.
Idalis Lopez, 18, Melanie Sanchez and Arianna Cabral, both 17, wrote letters to children at the High Sky Children’s Ranch and visited them. They decided to make baskets and put toiletries and things the children liked in them.
They received a thank-you letter, which made them feel good about themselves.
They visited before Christmas and got a tour.
Leslie Lopez and Ashley Moreno, both 17, coordinated making blankets and distributing them to the Odessa Animal Shelter.
They taught other people how to make blankets as well.
Lopez said it made them feel really good to be able to do this.
Both students said they feel the community service part of being in IB is very important.
Lopez said as young adults they need to learn how to help the community and give back.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Moreno said. “The fact that they give us the time to go out there … and just expose us to the outside world. …”