Now a semester into college, a group of high school high-achievers returned to Killeen High School on Friday to celebrate their international baccalaureate accomplishments.

Taking advantage of semester break, IB educators and a group of proud parents and friends honored 14 IB diploma recipients and 18 IB certificate recipients in a ceremony at the school.

To receive an IB diploma, students must complete high-level coursework, pass IB exams, earn 150 community service hours and complete a major project and a 4,000-word essay. Those who complete requirements in individual disciplines receive certificates. Results of the rigorous program are not available until the middle of summer.

The students graduated last June with their Killeen High Class of 2013 and on Friday received return on academic investment that already started to pay off.

Summer Gunnels, an IB diploma recipient from the KHS class of 2011, told the new graduates their hard work would continue to give them an advantage moving through higher education and beyond.

Now a University of Texas mechanical engineering student, Gunnels recalled the days when she fit in easily with about 20 of “the smart kids” who shared IB classes during her KHS years.

Now, at a campus of more than 50,000 students, she said her study groups are almost entirely high school valedictorians. But, she said, she learned to manage a heavy workload and balance a well-rounded life in high school IB.

“It made me a well-rounded student,” she said following the ceremony. “It gave me exposure to adult-level skills early in life.” She said at KHS, all IB students had to study and that the same is true at UT.

“It prepares you for the workload of college,” said Dominique Pettway, who received her IB diploma Friday and attends Lamar University.

She said the rigorous courses at Killeen required her to build organization skills that translate into the focus and discipline required at the college level. “Studying for IB exams is the same as studying for college,” she said. “There is more critical thinking in IB than in some college classes.”

IB diploma recipients include Salvador Leon, Haley Crissman, Mario Gaona, Christie Gibson, Anson Harris, Bernadette Johnson, William Lyman, Julia Mayer, Rafael Medrano Munoz, Randi Morgan, Dominique Pettway, Laurie Piland, Brandon Sullivan and Theodore Wu.

IB certificate recipients include Zachary Clipper, Jennifer Darrow, Gerald Dreher, Erin Eversoll, Howard Gordon, Connor Harvey, Genevieve Heltard, James Houston, Crystal Kang, Olivia Lacewell, Junanita Monroe, Antonia Parrish-Brooks, John Rechtorovic, Angelika Reza, Cooper Ross, Juan Villarreal, Tyler Wiges and Andrew Wintz.

Killeen High School received authorization from IB to operate the program in 2001. Currently there are 227 KHS students in the program. The middle school component operates at Patterson and Rancier middle schools. The elementary Primary Years Program is offered at Peebles and Iduma elementary schools.

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