Growing Greatness: Part 3

By: Amy Bingham
By: Amy Bingham

Gifted students don't fit one mold, but often they are gifted in different areas. They also face a variety of problems ranging from perfectionism, to competitiveness, to rejection from their peers.

This week, we've told you about the Kentucky Academy of Math and Science, where gifted high school juniors and seniors from around the state will come to Western to study college curriculum.

The state has provided funding to renovate Florence Schneider Hall to accommodate 120 students. The hall is being retrofitted with state of the art technology, including the very latest security measures.

"One of the things so important is to build confidence with parents. Their children will spend two years in Schneider Hall, where we will have a curfew. Most people don't know about curfews at universities," explained university officials.

In addition to security, parents will also be concerned about emotional support while their children are living away from home for the first time.

Thomas Choate has dealt with issues that come with being a gifted student his whole life. "It's hard being different, any different. [You’re] going to get made fun of," he explained.

He’s considering applying to the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science, but the curriculum is not what he's worried about.

"I wouldn't say [I have an] academic challenge, but social issues; just not having many friends, [and] teachers are not understanding,” Choate said.

Imagine having those worries while living on your own for the very first time.

Also, how does a child who's a junior not only deal with rigorous curriculum, but also grow up and identify a little bit of what they want to do when they grow up?

It’s an aspect of the academy the director doesn’t take lightly. Tim Gott is planning to pull from his background as a guidance counselor to provide substantial emotional support.

"That was one of my favorite things, to help students negotiate life's difficulties because when they come through it and get a sense of accomplishment, you can see it in their eyes and they walk with a lot more confidence,” Gott explained.

Psychologist Bill Pfohl agrees that type of support will be critical for the wide range of personalities attending the academy. “It's more close interaction than they've ever had with people like themselves,” he said.

“In one way, yes, it will be challenging intellectually and they will share common interests, but does that mean socially it will be the same? It may or may not be so.”

One key part of the academy's selection process will be an interview, allowing the selection staff to determine if the applicant can handle living away from home in a highly competitive environment; plus, possibly facing disappointment for the first time.

"What we find is some won't respond well to even getting an A-, or a B would be unbelievable. So it's going to take a strong system to help deal with that,” university officials said.

However, in spite of all the adjustments, the Choate family said the academy will likely provide the smoothest environment, yet in terms of Thomas fitting in.

They also say the benefit of Thomas being around his peers, engaged in challenging curriculum, would likely outweigh any of those issues.

Kentucky currently ranks 47th in the number of scientists and engineers.

The hope is that the Kentucky Academy of Math and Science will reverse that trend and stop the brain drain by offering challenging educational opportunities to the state's brightest students.

To learn more about the academy, visit www.wku.edu/academy.


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