Isaac Bear Celebrates 10 Years, Partnership with UNCW

Monday, March 23, 2015

Almost 10 years ago, Isaac Bear Early College High School (IBEC) began as a partnership between UNCW, New Hanover County Schools and the North Carolina New Schools Project.

IBEC is an early college high school program which offers enrolled students courses that prepare them for the rigor of college. Students can graduate from this program with a high school diploma and up to 60 college credits. Students take courses at UNCW during their junior and senior year of high school.

The first classes at IBEC took place in a divided auditorium at Snipes Elementary School. Today, IBEC is located in its own building on MacMillan Avenue. Its close proximity to UNCW’s main campus gives students access to the university’s resources.

Philip Sutton (pictured), principal of IBEC, spoke to a crowd gathered at IBEC on March 19 for the first of several events to kick off the school’s anniversary year. Many of those in attendance have been involved with Isaac Bear since its first days at Snipes.

“We are here to celebrate not only the 10th year of Isaac Bear, but also our partnership with UNCW,” said Sutton. “What UNCW is doing is making a difference in our students.”

Isaac Bear students use the university’s labs, and students are often a part of UNCW research projects. While IBEC doesn’t have an official mascot, they call themselves the “Bearhawks,” in reference to UNCW’s mascot, the Seahawk. The Bearhawk Bugle, coined “Isaac Bear’s Oldest and Most Beloved Newspaper,” by its staff of 23 students, is in its first year of publication.

The early college high school has a 100 percent graduation rate, according to the latest data from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Fifty percent of Isaac Bear students are the first in their families to go to college, Sutton said.

“The faculty is giving them a taste of college and they want to go on,” he said. “This is truly a place where dreams begin."

Madison Ross, a ninth grader at IBEC, has attended schools in Georgia, Florida and New York and has been homeschooled.

“I move around a lot because of my dad’s work, and this is one of the best schools I've attended," said Ross. “I have a resume and not a lot of my friends who go to other schools do.”

Ross earned a certification in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint 2013 through Sheila Sokolinsky’s Digital Integration class. Sokolinsky is a graduate of UNCW.  More than half of IBEC’s current faculty are either alumni or are pursuing graduate degrees from UNCW.

IBEC was recently selected as North Carolina’s high school division winner for this year’s ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign. The campaign celebrates achievement and success in developing students who are ready for college and careers.  IBEC will be recognized as the state winner during the State Board of Education meeting on April 2. It will represent North Carolina at the national competition for leadership in college and career readiness.