It was a symbolic ritual more than two years in the making.

More than 45 Largo High School juniors participated in a pinning ceremony to mark the midway point in their journey through the school's International Baccalaureate program.

They will be the first class to complete the program at Largo High School.

"This ceremony is to recognize the hard work that they've put forth," said Adam Lane, the school's IB coordinator. "Also to motivate them to get them through the next year and a half, to senior graduation, and earning their IB diploma."

The program is designed to prepare students for college and life in a global society. School officials said it can improve their chances of getting into the college of their choice and help them earn college credits while still in high school.

The standards are tough.

Students have to make high enough scores on internationally standardized exams in a variety of topics to earn their IB diploma.

"It is difficult," said Emily Miloro, an IB student. "There are nights where I get no sleep but there's also lots of times where you learn time management, which I think is essential no matter what age you are."

The students and their parents took a chance on Largo High's program which was new when they started.

"There was a lot of concern," said Christina Miloro, a parent. "I just wasn't sure if we would get the certification for being an IB school, but after meeting with most of the faculty I just knew they were dedicated to this. I just knew they were going to get it."

The program is now fully certified and growing with enrollment numbers going up every year.

The students said they are proud to be setting an example for the others who will come after them.

"The people in it are great," said Benjamin Shnitser, an IB student. "The teachers are nice, they understand everything and they want to teach us about all cultures, all aspects. We learn about every point of view."