Valley IB Seniors Shine at Extended Essay Showcase


Eathan Tranate

IB Senior Liliana Pinto with her award-winning board at the 2020 Extended Essay Showcase.

Bobby Degeratu, Contributing Writer

Child soldiers in El Salvador. The impact of basketball player LeBron James. Political corruption in Puerto Rico. Those were just some of the incredibly focused and deep inquiries conducted by the Valley IB 12th Graders, who showcased their hard work on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020. It was a culmination of a process that posed many challenges, from selecting a topic to sticking with it from start to end. One unforgettable night put everyone’s achievements at center stage as IB juniors set up and ran the event, not forgetting the importance of listening to the presentations and posing questions.

Eathan Tranate
IB Senior Vanessa Mejia at the Extended Essay Showcase on March 4, 2020.

The Extended Essay is an independent 4,000 word investigation with the main goal of providing students with the opportunity to research something that they are truly interested in. It is an integral part of the pathway to the IB Diploma, and arguably the most important project of the senior year, one that involves a months-long process, constant revision, patience, and perseverance.

It was a pleasure to help lead preparations for this exceptional event, a process that was of the utmost importance as someone who has seen, firsthand, just how intensive the Extended Essay process can be. It all started with the creation of a floor plan, where I worked closely with IB English teacher and EE Coordinator Jebette Caterina to ensure that observers had the best and most convenient view of the projects. Once we decided what items were necessary, and numbers were assigned to each student, the easy part was over. Riling up all of the juniors, ensuring they would sign-up for a job on the day of, was no easy task. 

Scheduling conflicts, existing tests, and after-school activities needed to be worked around to be sure that the seniors had 100% support from the class that would, in a few short months, experience everything they had. It was a matter of selling this participation not as a blind requirement, but rather the opportunity to gain inspiration and see firsthand what our final products should look like the following year. Students signed up to handle food, serve as ushers, answer inquiries about IB Council, and help set up/tear down the event, but I had to see everything put into effect before the stress could leave me. I would say the comradery and hardworking attitudes of my peers for this event surprised me, but I expected nothing less from an exceptional class that I have been very fortunate to get to know over the years. As families and former students piled in, the cafeteria radiated with eclectic and inspiring ideas, ones that never failed to hook people in or squeeze a question out of them. 

The idea of togetherness and unity extended from the juniors who had come together as the glue that held the event together, to the proud 12th Grade students. 

“Our hard work was showcased and we were all there together to show our support for one another,” declared senior Liliana Pinto, who investigated. “The showcase marked the finale of a paper we’ve been working on since last year, and it was a great send-off to an essay that was very personal to us, as it finally came to a close.”

It was incredible to see the various disciplines from which the students chose to select their topics. From common subjects in Valley IB such as biology or history to more surprising selections like film or world studies, seniors had a great degree of freedom that made each presentation feel unique and genuine. The fairly constraint-free process of the Extended Essay has always been one of the greatest challenges for students, almost as much as the research itself. The well-informed nature of each student taught me, as I am certain it did my peers, to select an area of study that will make the journey a positive experience as opposed to a chore. Something that takes up such a large portion of the 12th Grade year cannot be done with doubt or remorse, and the presenters made this very evident.

Senior Hoffman Madzou, who wrote about the extent of LeBron James as the greatest player of the last decade, felt very positively about the event and process in general. 

Bobby Degeratu
Madzou posing at his Extended Essay board.

“At the end of it all,” he stated, “I’d love to do it again. It was a great process to turn me around, not only as a student, but as a human being. It’s all about the work.”

In further celebration of the seniors’ hard work, awards were given out to the most outstanding research papers and presentation boards by IBDP Coordinator Andrew Magness. It was just another way to show appreciation for hard work and give those students the opportunity to explain their inspiration(s) and goals for the process.

Bobby Degeratu
Best essay award winners. Pictured from left to right are Mr. Magness, Bryan Molina, Erica Echeverria, Aida Kovacevic, Guadalupe Castellanos, and Trevor Hoffman.
Bobby Degeratu
Best board award winners. Pictured from left to right are Madalyn Robles, Betsy Parra, Vanessa Mejia, and Liliana Pinto.

An additional scholarship prize and the highest honor was awarded to Bryan Molina, who wrote his paper on US intervention in El Salvador’s conflicts, a topic very near and dear to him. Plenty of students took their topics beyond a simple interest or a random selection. They truly become connected with an idea that led their investigations for many months. 

Bobby Degeratu
Best essay and scholarship award winner Bryan Molina.

“Extended Essay is one of those projects where you become attached to it, so when showcase comes around, you can’t wait to talk about it,” remarked award winner Bryan Molina. 

The Extended Essay process may be over, but the research and journey is something unforgettable for the IB Class of 2020. Now, the Class of 2021 eases into their Extraordinary Experience” with the help of Ms. Caterina, and will continue to work towards a finalized question in the coming months. The inspiration from March’s event will surely echo in their minds, with the wise words of the graduating class ensuring success on the colossal task.