June 27, 2003
Purdue opens doors for young, gifted minority students
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. A Purdue University program will bring 62 minority and disadvantaged children to campus to participate in the universitys summer programs for gifted and talented students.
The students from Indianapolis and Gary, Ind., will come to the Gifted Education Resource Institute in Purdues School of Education for residential summer enrichment programs as part of the Minority Initiative for Gifted Students.
Scholarships of up to $1,550 per participant will make it possible for 24 gifted children from Indianapolis Public Schools and 38 students from the Gary Community School Corp. to attend the program. School officials recommend the fifth- through eighth-graders for scholarships. All have been identified as gifted, and most are African-American.
The scholarships allow the students to spend one or two weeks at Purdue taking enrichment classes in subjects such as genetics, art, anthropology, Web design and forensic science.
"For a lot of these children, this will be their first experience on a college campus," said Sidney Moon, a Purdue professor of educational studies and executive director of the university's Gifted Education Resource Institute. "If we can help these academically gifted students view a college education as an attainable goal, they are much more likely to work toward that goal during the rest of their time in school."
Moon said if the students' first college experience is with Purdue, those students also might be more likely to attend Purdue. Evaluation surveys consistently find that students finish the camp with positive impressions of Purdue and college in general.
One tenet of the universitys strategic plan is to increase enrollment of qualified minority students.
Unlike many other programs that reach out to minority or low-income students, this one does not keep those students separate from other students. The 62 students will take classes and interact with the other gifted students. Project coordinator Eric Cleveland, a School of Education doctoral student, said the strategy helps all students understand the value of interacting with people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Since the inception of the minority initiative, the percentage of African-American participants attending the gifted summer camps has increased from less than 2 percent in 1999 to more than 17 percent in 2002. Nationally, about 5 percent of the participants in gifted and talented enrichment programs are African-American, compared to 13 percent of the general population.
"There is a school of thought that suggests that the more opportunities a person has, the more likely they are to succeed and create more opportunities for themselves," Cleveland said. "Minority and low-income children tend to be presented with fewer opportunities, but a program such as the minority initiative can help them create their own."
The scholarships are funded primarily by a grant from the Davidson Foundation, a Nevada-based philanthropic organization that works to support projects that advance learning and enhance the potential of gifted children while encouraging scholarship and service.
The minority initiative also has created spin-off programs, such as collaborations between the Indianapolis Public Schools and the Gifted Education Resource Institute's Super Saturday program, which features high-level, fast-paced enrichment classes for gifted students in elementary and middle school.
"Often, gifted students have interests and experiences that are different than the general school population," said Cleveland. "The summer program focuses not only on academic success, but also helps gifted students with social, emotional and motivational development. Many of these students find a social network of gifted children that they may have trouble finding at school."
Founded in 1974, the Gifted Education Resource Institute conducts research into the psychology of gifted and talented individuals and effective educational practices for high-ability youth. The institute offers summer and weekend enrichment camps and travel programs for talented students in preschool through high school and offers a graduate program in gifted education and a licensure program for K-12 teachers in Indiana.
Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Sidney M. Moon, (765) 494-7301, email@example.com
Eric Cleveland, (765) 494-0094, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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