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20 South Forsyth seniors first to get new diploma seal
Taking part in the recent diploma ceremony were, from left: Valerie Lowe, director of work force development for Forsyth County Schools; Maggie Gustavus, South ISDS coordinator; student Katelyn Reneslacis; Laura Wilson, South principal; and Richard Woods, state school superintendent. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

SOUTH FORSYTH — Part of the graduating class at South Forsyth High School this year will be the first in the county to receive a new designation offered by the Georgia Department of Education.

The 20 students who will be awarded the International Skills Diploma Seal completed an international education curriculum and engaged in extracurricular activities and experiences that “foster the achievement of global competencies.”

“Between the International Baccalaureate program, Mentor Me with Hispanic students, Theory of Knowledge, mission work and the Governor’s Honors Program, while at South Forsyth I have traveled the world without even leaving the country,” said Katelyn Reneslacis, one of the seniors.

“International experiences are far more profound than just taking a trip to a foreign country. I have achieved international mindedness through engaging with my teachers and peers about matters of global importance.”

Reneslacis joined Caroline Abbey, Samantha Baker, Syeda Bano, Abigail Breuker, Brittany Brown, Grant Gerwitt, Margot Harris, Sandhya Iyer, Caroline Kajzer, Dorna Mansouri, Daniela Matejkova, Katie Paris, Alyssa Reburiano, Tanya Sharma, Yasmin Tehrani, Samuel Thomas, Annu Verma, Rasika Vuppala and Nandi Walton in completing the requirements necessary to earn the seal.

The seal is a signal to employers and higher education institutions that a student is prepared to participate in the global economy, according to Maggie Gustavus, media relations and world languages department chair at the school on Peachtree Parkway.

“In order to qualify, students need to complete coursework in world languages and classes with an international focus, conduct a minimum of 20 hours of community service involving a global/cross cultural public service project, participate in at least four extracurricular activities and experiences with global themes and/or in global contexts and prepare and present a capstone presentation on the knowledge gained in the courses and activities to a panel of community leaders,” Gustavus said.

Reneslacis represented South at a recent awards ceremony put on by the state education department for the participating schools across the state.

She said her foreign language classes were not the only ones to help her toward completing the requirements.

“Also my English literature, music appreciation, history and science classes. The program enriches my understanding of global implications in a new and discussion-oriented manner,” she said.

“Through the honor societies at South, I have had the opportunity to engage with students from other countries, primarily to help them, but as a side-effect I have learned more and more about their cultures and backgrounds.”

She said while theory of knowledge gave her a headache each day, the lessons taken away from the class now help her form her thoughts, actions and evaluations.

“The month-long experience at the Governor’s Honor Program facilitated by my teachers at South changed the way I interact with people, and the time spent with my class of Spanish majors enhanced my abilities in and passion for the Spanish language and how it enables me to connect with more of the global population,” Reneslacis said.

Without the program, she said, “I would be physically, but more importantly mentally, trapped in my own background and thoughts rather than being enabled and equipped to travel the world no matter where I am in the future.”