Growing Greatness - Part Two

By: Amy Bingham
By: Amy Bingham

When the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science opens at Western next fall it will be the kind of challenge Kentucky’s brightest students have been waiting for.

One-hundred and twenty above average high school students from across the state will spend their junior and senior years at the Academy. The students will live in Florence Schneider Hall and be offered a variety of college curriculum. The hope is that this type of Academy will eliminate some of the brain drain in Kentucky where our brightest students flee the state in search of a bigger challenge.

“When he started school, we thought, piece of cake but it wasn’t. We had this brilliant little kid, we thought piece of cake, but it wasn’t a piece of cake,” said Connie Choate, mother of gifted student Thomas.

Thomas Choate breezed through his elementary grades, but even though the lessons came easy the frustration over the lack of a challenge continued to mount.

He skipped the seventh grade and is now a 13-year-old freshman at Warren Central High School. Thomas said he would fit right into a place like the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science.

“It’s a really great opportunity to be around people who like to learn,” Thomas said. Thomas’s mother said learning is all that’s ever mattered to Thomas and it’s been a constant struggle to fulfill his insatiable appetite for knowledge. She agrees the Academy would be a perfect match.

“I’m excited for him because for the first time, it’s gonna be his needs met in a normal way, no exceptions, no giving him a manual to go over in a corner,” Connie said.

Thomas’s father finds himself in a unique position. He’s a professor in the Engineering and Biological Science Building and will likely be teaching high school students from the Academy alongside WKU students.

“I know some of the difficulties Thomas has in the classroom and I can target students who have similar difficulties. There are social and maturity level issues associated with being 16 and 17 on our campus,” Dr. Robert Choate explained.

If Thomas is accepted in 2008, he’ll be only 15 years old as a junior on a college campus. But the challenging curriculum doesn’t intimidate him at all. Thomas spends most all of his time focusing on his academic career.

“I get a lot of homework. It’s easy but not a lot of free time. I know I’ll get an A on it,” Thomas said.

Thomas admits that he, not his parents, puts pressure on himself to maintain all A’s. But they are diligent about making sure he’s getting the academic challenge he needs.

“Every year we jump through hoops, every year we make adjustments. I’m thrilled that in another year plus, hopefully he’ll get accepted,” Connie explained.

Even though Thomas is not worried about the academic challenge associated with the Academy the social aspect may be another story. Tomorrow night we’ll look at the issues gifted students face when it comes to “fitting in” and also what the Academy is doing to gain the trust of parents who will send their teenagers off to college two years early.

For more information on the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science, log onto www.wku.edu/academy.


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