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Students enthusiastically waved flags from different countries around the world as they celebrated their International Baccalaureate (IB) World School candidacy at Austin and Sam Houston Elementary.

The IB Primary Years Program offers a multilingual approach and rigorous curriculum that is focused on developing active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others.

Guest speakers Marifer Quevedo, a former IB student, and Noa Williot, a Rotary Youth Exchange student attending Harlingen High School, were on hand to speak to students about the benefits of an education that promotes international mindedness.

Quevedo, who is originally from Mexico, had the opportunity to go through an IB program during her high-school years.

“I grew up speaking 100 percent Spanish at home. It’s something that I’ve always been very proud of, and with IB, I had the opportunity to be in an environment that embraced that,” she said. “The program helped me develop a global mindset. It focused on making sure that as a student, I knew how to work together with my peers no matter what their language or cultural background. We all share this planet, so it’s important that we help students develop tolerance.”

Students have been learning about different countries in their classes, and a few fifth-graders at Austin have been using their lunch time to learn some words in Mandarin. When they heard that Williot, who is originally from Belgium, is a French-speaker, they immediately asked to learn some words.

“Bonjour, je m’appel. In English, that means, hello, my name is. Aren’t you proud? Now you could speak a little bit of French,” said Williot. “Last year, I had an American sister. When she came to Belgium, she didn’t speak very well in French. But after five months she improved her French, and by Christmas, she was able to speak it well. I was so proud of her. She inspired me every day.”

At the age of six, Williot knew she wanted to be an exchange student after learning of her father’s experience as an exchange student in Mexico. She said she feels fortunate to be able to visit the United States, and works at improving her English every day.

To commemorate the journey their school is taking to become an IB school, two Dual Language students at Sam Houston recited a poem in English and Spanish about being bilingual.

“Someday, because I can speak two languages, I will be able to do twice as many things, help twice as many people, and do everything I do, twice as well.”

Williot left students with some advice for the future.

“Now, I want to remind you that you are the leaders of tomorrow. Do your best, be curious, and be interested in our world.”

View photos of the Austin and Houston Elementary celebrations.

Both schools are in the candidacy phase of the authorization process. A successful candidate school can take between two and three years to become an IB World School. To ensure a responsible rollout and to best meet the needs of the Austin and Sam Houston school communities, preparation for teachers at both campuses will be a yearlong process.

To learn more about International Baccalaureate, visit www.ibo.org.

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