We hear from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates Katie Tracy and Imogen Duke, who teamed up to create IBlieve—a platform that offers IB students resources and tips from IB graduates. They join a long tradition of IB alumni entrepreneurs returning to education.
Both graduates scored 45 points in the IB, Katie at the International School Manila in the Philippines and Imogen at Sevenoaks School in the UK. Imogen is now a student at Oxford University and Katie at Cornell University. Katie is also known for her popular YouTube channel that offers advice for students worldwide.
What is IBlieve? And what inspired you to create it?
Imogen Duke: At the beginning of 2020, I was tutoring an IB history student in China. Her school was closed at the end of January and I witnessed the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). It was hard for her to keep going with school because she missed that personal interaction of the classroom.
When COVID-19 was declared a world-wide pandemic, I got home from university and brainstormed to see how I could help. My initial idea was to create a website and I got my friends to help me out. It grew quite quickly, and we had a lot of graduate volunteers but not many students. As I worked with Katie, we gained a bigger outreach to students and grew very quickly which was very exciting. We have grown to provide mentoring and tutoring partnerships, monthly virtual events, blog posts, social media content, advice videos, and an online community for students—as well as a High School Ambassador programme for students to gain experience working in or leading one of our teams.
Katie Tracy: Ever since I made my first IB video reacting to my results—which was also supposed to be my last—I got a lot of comments and new viewers who did the IB. I knew it was offered in my school, but I never realized how international it was. When I saw that there were no YouTubers or content creators making videos about the IB, I jumped on it quickly and saw the potential to give a lot of advice.
I thought, “once I put out all my knowledge, that’ll be it.” But even as a third-year university student, I still see many students looking for advice and support. So, in March, I was grateful to receive a message from Imogen who was the first graduate who reached out to start something that would help IB students. Previously, it was just IB students who wanted help from me—not another graduate who wanted to work together to make something that could benefit others. When Imogen reached out, I remember thinking, ‘this is the opportunity and time to give back.’ COVID-19 completely disrupted the education system in many places and I believed now, more than ever, would be a great time to help.
How did you take your idea from concept to reality?
Katie Tracy: From day one, the fuel that kept us going was finding a dedicated group of people to join our team. I learned collaborating with others is key because when I graduated from the Diploma Programme (DP), I wanted to make a website for students but never got around to it because no one held me accountable. That’s why I am so lucky to have Imogen as a co-founder. It’s her support, encouragement and the ability to bounce ideas off each other that motivated me to keep going.
Once we formed a team, we found it helpful to reach out to our first community members and learn how our work was impacting others. That’s the second level of motivation—after you sit with the idea in your head, execute on it, then see students benefiting from it. When we onboarded our first mentees and tutees, they were immensely grateful to IBlieve for helping them, but the magical thing was they too wanted to start giving back. For us, this was third level of motivation—seeing the people you help now want to help others. You end up with this cycle of positivity and upliftment that is key to sustaining IBlieve.
Imogen: The positive energy we felt from the first group turned IBlieve into a reality. I have learnt so much from Katie about leadership and communication. She taught me the importance of enthusiastic language to create a team spirit and a consistent brand. During our group calls, it is a great feeling to be surrounded by people from so far away geographically, united in their enthusiasm and willingness to help. We have maintained this positive energy and I think it is the key to reaching and helping so many students.
What significant challenges did you face as you started this project?
Imogen: The main challenge I faced initially was reaching current IB students. When I first created the website with the idea of free mentoring, I mostly reached out to my friends and schoolmates. I had a lot of volunteers, but it was hard to reach students, so my initial thought was to go through schools and organizations. That was difficult considering what schools had to deal with, pivoting to virtual teaching, and they already adopted their own methods of support.
We knew that we had a lot of help to give and it was a matter of finding students who needed it the most. That’s where Katie came in—I reached out to her on Twitter, and she was so enthusiastic about the idea. She already had a platform of IB students who needed help and amazing experience with project management and social media strategy. We created a new website for IBlieve, and she put it on her YouTube and Instagram for her audience to see. This allowed us to create something that fits into students’ social lives, where conversations are informal and relatable. Instagram allowed us to have peer-to-peer support, as opposed to the rigid structure of schools.
Katie: Another challenge we’re currently facing is reaching out to alumni because the number of student signups have increased dramatically, at a rate faster than that of our graduate signups. We would love to connect with recent graduates who want to support current IB students through mentoring, tutoring, or writing blog posts to share their knowledge! Our hope is that our current first year and second year students, who are about to graduate, will return to volunteer to help students in the same way IBlieve has helped them.
We also have the challenge of funding—both Imogen and I are happy dedicating our time, but we want to make iBlieve financially sustainable for future IB cohorts to come, and we are hoping alumni can help us through donations and mentorship.
We know there are so many talented and generous IB alumni out there, and we would love to connect with you to see how we can work together to help more students across the globe!
Did an aspect of your IB education help you with this project?
Imogen: There are two main things that I took away from my IB education. The first is that I enjoy having a lot of things on my plate: coming into university was strange because I only had one subject, as opposed to six. So, I thought I would take on extra-curricular activities and other projects because I like having a diversity of activities in my life. That is something that the IB really instilled in me and it’s been great balancing university work with other projects. There is always something new to work on, where I can use different skills and meet new people.
Secondly, I appreciate the global mindset the IB instilled in me. It allows you to start thinking, not only within national boundaries, but from a global perspective. That is evident in IBlieve because IB is the same for everyone around the world—it’s been fascinating to chat with so many students to see how these common ties are impacted by local differences.
Katie: One of my favorite skills I learned from my language and literature class was communication. We did a unit with multimedia and I got the opportunity to explore different text types and understand the nuances of each. I discovered the importance of language in conveying tone and emotions, which I became very attentive to when IBlieve published articles or sent newsletters. When I was analyzing the texts in class, it was very theoretical, but it felt like a world opened up when I was actively practicing the skills for a community I cared about.
For example, we have a “Brand Voice Guide” document that outlines how we strive to be very positive and encouraging. We try to be expressive through exclamation points and emojis, and we constantly reassure our students that our community is here to support them every day of their two-year journey. These may seem like small, meticulous things but they have a profound effect on IBlieve’s energy. IBlieve’s brand has always been built on the idea that every IB student can succeed and have a positive experience through it, just as Imogen and I have. Language was an underrated, yet immensely powerful tool for us to achieve that ethos.
If you are an IB World School or an IB student and you wish to share your story with us, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your ongoing support and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and now YouTube!
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