by McKenna Burchett, associate editor

When graduating with honors, students receive a double blue and white cord, and a sticker on their diploma. The honors cord is the only double cord. The STEM Honors Diploma sticker is silver, and the Academic Honors Diploma sticker is gold. Photo by McKenna Burchett, associate editor.

MAY 2022 — Although Bio-Med Science Academy students have the opportunity to earn an Academic Honors Diploma or a STEM Honors Diploma, many students are not sure if doing so is worth the effort.

Benjamin Morgan, a Bio-Med alumnus from the class of 2020 who earned an Academic Honors Diploma, is fully in support of students working toward the diplomas.

Morgan took a gap year after graduating high school, during which he wrote and published two articles. “One is in Dissent magazine, and it’s about the social gospel, and that movement during the early 20th century in the Great Plains. Then I wrote another piece for Z magazine, which was about the Occupy movement, like Occupy Wall Street,” he explained. “I worked with this couple named Staughton and Alice Lynd. These two, who are both in their 90s, have been big activists for coming up on 70 years. Staughton was a coordinator for the Mississippi Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights Movement and was a key player in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He did stuff with Students for Democratic Society, and was big in the anti-war movement. Then they moved to Ohio to do labor law.” Photo provided by Morgan.

“I would recommend that students [pursue an honors diploma], if for no reason other than that by fulfilling the requirements for an honors diploma, it gives you a breadth of education that, even if you’re not going to continue your education after high school, is important to have that broad basic knowledge provided by these courses,” he said.

Currently, Morgan is a history major attending Vassar College, a private liberal arts school located in Poughkeepsie, New York. He explained how he views academics, both in high school, and in college, saying, “I really try to do what I can do to be both an involved student and be engaged in scholastic endeavors, and also to be a member of the broader community.”

Morgan decided to pursue an Academic Honors Diploma because of this drive. “In terms of the honors diploma, I feel like for me, though it didn’t go into my college application, I was really happy to have received it,” he elaborated.

Irene Scherer is a sophomore who is currently working towards earning an Academic Honors Diploma as well. They were inspired to pursue an honors diploma after hearing about it from a friend.

“[My friend] was like, ‘these are all the requirements,’ and I was like, ‘I have most of those. I could do that, totally,’” they said. “I have to take a language class, still, and I think that’s going to be the hardest part, but overall it’s been pretty easy. It’s been just about what I’ve already been doing and CCP classes that I’ve already done.”

Scherer concluded, “If you’re just doing the basic classes you have to do, then I feel like doing an honors diploma is a lot of extra work. But if you’re already doing CCP classes and have the time to pursue it, then I think it’s a good idea.”

Cons of the Honors Diploma

The only complaint Morgan had about the honors diploma requirements was which courses were offered in-house. He specifically believed there should be more history courses. “Of course I’m biased, but there were only two in-person history classes, and a third that was all online. I understand that there were staffing shortages and a lack of space in which to teach it, but I believe that history is one of the most important subjects that a student can learn as it is crucial for a person living within a society to have a good sense of history,” he said. “It is one of the most fundamental subjects and it is the one that is so often cut because it forces people to look at their own past, which may make them critical of the way things are. But that’s just me coming at it as a historian.”

As of this year, a third history course was added in-person, integrated with Ms. Whitney Mihalik’s College, Career, and Finance course.  

According to statistics provided by Hammond, the majority of students graduate with Bio-Med’s standard diploma. However, until the Class of 2019, the majority of students were graduating with an honors diploma. This corresponded with the shift in the courses offered at Bio-Med. Originally, Bio-Med offered in-house Mandarin Chinese and Spanish courses, though in 2014, these were replaced with Rosetta Stone’s online instruction. In 2019, this option was removed, so students can now only take foreign language classes through CCP. Morgan was a part of the last class that was offered foreign language through Rosetta Stone. The Class of 2016 did not have the option to graduate with STEM Honors, as it did not exist yet. Photo by McKenna Burchett.

Skyler Earl is a junior who initially wanted to earn an Academic Honors Diploma, but ultimately decided against it. “I was told they don’t help you get into college, and the requirements for them just seemed like a lot of work for a high school student, on top of their regular high school stuff,” she said. “Because doing college out of school is tough sometimes, I feel like the emotional sacrifice wouldn’t make up for the extra ribbon.”

Miss Stephanie Hammond, the guidance counselor for grades 10 through 12, addressed this concern, saying, “I don’t want to take away from the students who do earn it, because it is additional work. But as far as the college process, it has absolutely no bearing on the college process. You’ve already applied, and quite honestly, you’ve already paid your deposit. May 1 is a lot of school’s deadline to accept your seat to wherever you want to go, so you have to commit by May, and you don’t graduate until later.”

Though Earl is enrolled in CCP courses, she is not doing so for the honors diploma.

“I took Spanish I, and I’m taking Spanish II. I’m probably looking at [attending Kent State], so I know the credits will transfer, and I might need a foreign language [credit in the future],” she explained.

Scherer thought finding which CCP classes were needed for the honors diploma was unclear. “I don’t like how vague it is. Because there’s not anywhere that’s outlining exactly what you need and how to get it,” she elaborated. “It’s just very hard to find [information].”

How to Earn an Honors Diploma

The Academic Honors Diploma requires all credits of the minimum graduation requirements, as well as an additional social studies credit, three credits of one foreign language or two credits of two different languages, a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and an ACT score of at least 27 or an SAT score of at least 1280. Of the additional requirements, a student must meet all but one of them.

Any credits required for a diploma that Bio-Med does not offer must be taken through College Credit Plus (CCP). Bio-Med offers all classes except for foreign language (minus Spanish III, which is taught by Christina Barnard), and a fourth social studies course. Electives in STEM and the fifth laboratory science credit can be earned through the senior elective courses. The Class of 2024 and onward have the option to take a second math course during their junior year. This is to allow students to be able to take the calculus course their senior year, though it also grants them a fifth math credit.

The STEM Honors Diploma has the same requirements as Bio-Med’s minimum graduation requirements, with an additional mathematics credit, an additional laboratory science credit, two STEM elective credits, three units of one foreign language or two units each of two different languages, a 3.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and an ACT score of at least 27 or an SAT score of at least 1280. Of the additional requirements, a student must meet all but one of them. Photo by McKenna Burchett, associate editor. 

The Ohio Department of Education lists the six types of honors diplomas: the Academic Honors Diploma, the International Baccalaureate Honors Diploma, the Career Tech Honors Diploma, the STEM Honors Diploma, the Arts Honors Diploma, and the Social Science and Civic Engagement Honors Diploma. The latter five were introduced in 2017.

Hammond described the reasoning behind why Bio-Med only allows students to earn two of the six honors diplomas. “It is not possible to earn [all of the diplomas at Bio-Med]. We had an Academic Honors Diploma, then [Ohio] added all of these extras, and STEM was one of them,” she explained. “That’s why we now have those two that we focus on, because our students can earn a STEM Honors Diploma and Academic Honors. [For] the others, there’s just so many things… like CCP, credits, classes [offered]. It’s just not feasible.”

Hammond concluded, saying, “I think [honors diplomas are] great. I do think they’re beneficial, but I would hate for students to put themselves in a situation where they’ve taken on more than they can handle, so I think it’s really about ‘what can that student do?’ But [students should] also know that earning their degree [is] no small feat, especially as a Bio-Med student.”

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