Rachel Finney wanted to be in a high school program where the other students in her classes were just as interested in learning.
Aliyah Russell wants to be an environmental or chemical engineer, and liked the idea of learning science with a global perspective.
Adam Ralston wants to attend the University of France, and wanted a challenging curriculum.
"I'm interested in a higher education in high school," said Ralston, 14, of Abingdon. "I wanted something that would require me to work hard."
All three ninth grade students found what they were looking for when they joined 29 other students who are participating in the Global Studies and International Baccalaureate program that began this school year at Edgewood High School. Started in 1968, the international program is being offered in about 2,400 schools in 129 countries, to more than 656,000 students.
At Edgewood, planning for the program began about five years ago, after the county school system's Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas selected the school for the program. Almost 60 students applied, 49 were accepted, and 32 chose to attend, said Amy Woolf, the coordinator of the program.
To participate, students applied for the program, which is free except for a $700 fee for the exam taken at the end of the program, Woolf said. Then a panel of educators reviewed their middle school report cards, standardized test scores and a writing sample.
"We were looking for kids with a solid B average, who were proficient on standardized tests," she said. "We wanted students that we could bring up, rather than students who already had straight A's."
Ralston, 14, of Abingdon, said he has already noticed the difference in learning.
"We got homework the first week," he said. "But I want to do something good with my life. And if I work hard now, I will reach my goals faster."
The 32 participants begin with the global studies portion of the program that will be taught by 12 teachers at the school, and include ninth-and-tenth grade classes. The students will take their regular required courses at an honors level, with a global focus, Woolf said.
"In English literature, they will get away from the old dead white guy literature," Woolf said.
Instead, the students will be reading books such as Socrates Caf?, in which Christopher Phillips, the author, searches for public conversations that he calls cafes with people from all walks of life; and Nectar in a Sieve, a first-person narrative told by a widow during the early 1950s about a woman in a village in India.
They will also study subtitled foreign films, Woolf said.
"We hope to offer a couple of foreign film nights for the parents a couple of times a year," she said. "We want to show the parents what the students are learning."
The program is keeping teachers on their toes as well, said Christine Weller, who teaches art at Edgewood High. Everything about the IB program is different from what she has done in the past, she said.
"The way you ask the IB kids questions is different," Weller said. "It's more advanced. They want to take questions to the next level, so I have to work to stay a step ahead of them."
During her regular Survey I class, she teaches the students art through time periods, she said. The IB class will include additional things such as paintings from Pakistan, she said.
Weller noticed a difference in the way the IB students do their art assignments when they worked on one of their first art projects - a lesson on frottage, she said. To do the assignment, there were no real rules, she said.
The students were instructed to take a piece of paper, lay it on top of different textures such as shoes, walls, beads, notebooks, and trace the textures onto the paper. When the regular art class students completed the assignment, they turned it in without second guessing themselves, she said.
"The IB students kept checking to see if they were doing it right," she said. "They went around the room, tight and rigid. It was funny to watch them."
In science, the IB students will do what the other honors classes are doing, but they will apply the concepts they are learning to places around the world, Woolf said.
When they have a unit on a topic like acid rain, they will study how it affects the United States, then they will study how it affects people in a nonindustrialized country, and more industrialized countries, she said.
Russell, 13, of Belcamp, is impressed with the curriculum, she said.
"The high standards set for me in this program challenge me to do better," she said. "I want to get a better take on learning. I want to go beyond what everyone else learns and dig deeper. I want to learn things I have never been exposed to before."
Once the students complete the first two years of the program, they can select the courses they want to take during their final two years.
During all four years, the students are closely monitored. Woolf goes to the classes bi-weekly and talks to the students for about 15 minutes to see how things are going, she said.
"Anytime you do a countywide magnet program, you have to be sure that the kids are adjusting to their new school and new people, in many cases," Woolf said.
But when it's all said and done, the program gives the students a leg up when they get to college, she said. Many universities, including Towson University and the University of Maryland, start the IB program graduates as sophomores, Woolf said.
When Finney, 14, of Havre de Grace, heard about the advantages she would have when applying to college, she was sold on the program, she said.
"When I realized the doors the program would open for me, I didn't mind that I would have to go to a school away from my friends," Finney said. "I also liked the idea that I would be going to school with other kids who were more focused on doing their work than talking in class."