FARMINGTON — Navajo Preparatory School is now the first Native American International Baccalaureate high school in the country.

On Jan. 29, the International Baccalaureate organization approved the school's application to become an IB World School and offer the Diploma Programme. Navajo Prep will be the fifth New Mexico school to offer the program, along with two schools in Albuquerque, one in Santa Fe and one in Montezuma.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for our students to excel and be recognized for receiving an international diploma in education," said International Baccalaureate Coordinator Roxanne Lee.

A secondary diploma will be offered for seniors who complete the program. Work from the program equals a year of higher education credits, allowing students to start their first year of college as sophomores.

Navajo Prep Executive Director Betty Ojaye said the IB diploma program will be taught starting in the 2014-2015 school year. Students will apply to be placed into the program, which requires extra work in addition to the work required to earn a New Mexico state high school diploma.

"All of our students at Navajo Prep are capable of doing IB," Ojaye said. "There will be those that make that higher commitment and follow through, moving towards the IB diploma."

Lee said 21 sophomores were accepted into the IB diploma program out of 66 sophomores enrolled at the school. As part of the application process, students submitted recommendation letters from teachers, wrote an essay and, along with their parents, completed interviews.

Students in the IB program are required to take an additional course called Theory of Knowledge. In that class, students will consider the role of knowledge and reflect on different types of knowledge used in society.

Ojaye said students will also write an essay during the two-year program and complete a community service project.

Right now, the school is preparing for the work it will take to meet the rigor of an IB World School.

"It's a collective effort as administration is responsible to drive structure and guidance for the diploma program and teachers to raise rigor," Lee said. "Students are expected to perform at higher levels. We consider them all to be IB students, even though only a number go through the diploma program."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.