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Bilingual IB diploma offers tools for reviving forgotten history through biographies

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Daniel Pedreira shares ­­­how the IB helped him hone his research and writing skills at Coral Gables Senior High School and put him on the track to become a published author. His second book An Instrument of Peace: The Full-Circled Life of Ambassador Guillermo Belt Ramírez, was released June 2019.

Havana, Cuba - December 22, 2015: A Cuban flag with holes waves over a street in Central Havana.

By Daniel I. Pedreira

When I graduated from high school with an bilingual IB diploma in 2002, I never imagined that 17 years later, I would be a published author. As a newly-minted high school graduate from Coral Gables Senior High School in 2002, little did I know that I would someday make a literary contribution.

As part of the Diploma Programme (DP), I was fortunate enough to receive a well-rounded education that expanded beyond the confines of my community and my country. At the same time, the DP’s advanced curriculum allowed me to learn the research and writing skills that helped me transition more easily into college. Over time, completing numerous research papers made writing a book seem a possible reality instead of an unreachable thought.

Supportive teachers, developing passions

The DP also provided enough flexibility to allow me to explore the topics that piqued my interest. While studying the IB at Coral Gables Senior High, I became interested in learning more about Cuban political history. My interest arose from a newfound interest in history and politics as a possible field of study coupled with a desire to learn more about my family’s background. While in high school, I began researching Cuba’s political history by conducting interviews and archival research during my spare time.

“She guided me towards books that I should read and was always available to talk about the topics that interested me.”

I was lucky enough to have an amazing educator, Mrs. Mercedes Verazain, as my IB Spanish Language and Literature teacher. Her classes presented a detailed overview of Spanish and Latin American literature that went beyond stylistic and linguistic nuances and provided extensive discussion and analysis of the historical and cultural context in which the readings were written. When relevant to class discussions, Mrs. Verazain introduced current events to illustrate sociopolitical trends that also played a role in our readings.

Thanks to Mrs. Verazain’s flexibility and encouragement, I was able to read and ask questions about what pre-revolutionary Cuban politics and society were like. She guided me towards books that I should read and was always available to talk about the topics that interested me. Simultaneously, she helped me perfect key skills, ranging from sentence structure to essay writing, that provided me with a solid foundation for my future as a writer.

Actualizing my dreams

Years later, my research interests and literary foundation that developed as part of the IB took a new turn when, in 2013, my first book was published. “El último constituyente: El desarrolló politico de Emilio “Millo” Ochoa,” (“The Last Delegate: The Political Development of Emilio “Millo” Ochoa”), which is a biography on the prominent Cuban politician and last surviving signer of Cuba’s 1940 Constitution. Written in Spanish, the book was published by Aduana Vieja in Spain. Writing this book in Spanish was a natural choice given the subject matter. The language skills that I perfected while in the DP helped me conduct interviews, analyze primary and secondary sources and develop a book that was informational and easy to read.

I am constantly reminded of the skills that I learned and the unwavering support that I received while enrolled in the DP.”

In June of this year, my second book, published by Lexington Books, became a reality. Titled “An Instrument of Peace: The Full-Circled Life of Ambassador Guillermo Belt Ramírez,” this book is an English-language biography on the prominent Cuban diplomat who served as his country’s ambassador to the US and to the USSR during the last days of World War II who went on to sign the Charters of the UN and of the OAS on Cuba’s behalf. As such, Belt represented a generation of diplomats who, after bearing witness to the horrors of war, had the resolve to come together to work to prevent future wars. The IB’s international focus provided a strong background that contributed to my understanding of the role of diplomats like Belt during the postwar period.

As I continue to research and write about Cuba’s forgotten political history, I am constantly reminded of the skills that I learned and the unwavering support that I received while enrolled in the DP. I am proud to look back on what I learned while putting those lessons to good use.

Daniel Pedreira600

Daniel I. Pedreira completed the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at Coral Gables Senior High School and is currently a PhD student in Political Science at Florida International University. Learn more about him at his website here.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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