Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Many Faces of Gifted: Tara R.

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camps – mentioned in this story – unite highly able children and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children and provides an opportunity for campers to explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social and physical aspects of their lives.


Tara Raizada
Past Yunasa Camper
Current Student at Northwestern University

“The ‘gifted’ label, for me, mattered less and less as I got older,” college freshman Tara Raizada said. “When I was younger, the identification pushed me to achieve more, but I ended up going to a middle school comprised solely of TAG [Talented and Gifted] students, where being ‘gifted’ was the norm, and I began to attribute less to the term than I had before, since that kind of child was so ubiquitous in my life. I hardly ever heard the word during high school, and I began to think even less about it. Yunasa became the only place I ever really pondered the term, and then I thought of it in a positive light. At the same time, I think it’s important to strike a balance with this label, because it can put children under a lot of pressure to achieve what they think ‘gifted’ kids need to achieve. Yunasa, I think, contributes a lot to balancing that fear out for many campers I’ve seen there, to realize that being ‘gifted’ is also a personality trait and an intellectual mindset, not just a measure of intelligence.”

Read more of Tara’s story!

Keeping Young

By Jim Delisle

When I first began working with gifted kids in 1978, I had no idea that I’d still be doing so 36 years later. Those first gifted 4th-5th graders I taught in Stafford Springs, Connecticut are now closer to their retirements than their college graduations. That should make me feel old (OK…I am old!), but thanks to a decision I made more than 20 years ago, my vitality remains. That decision?: to never be more than a week away from teaching gifted kids.

My career trajectory led me from the elementary classroom to the college lecture hall, a much easier place to teach. There are no parent phone calls to return while teaching college, and discipline problems are minimal. Still, I found something lacking in teaching my graduate students. It wasn’t that they weren’t sincere in wishing to earn their degrees, it’s just that they were all so…predictable. And if there’s one thing I learned while teaching gifted kids, it was that predictability was not a quality that many of them possessed. “Quirky” (yes, that would fit), “spontaneous” (…maybe that’s why I could never get through my intended lesson without several student-led detours) and “intense” (couldn’t any of them, just once, practice the fine art of intellectual moderation?). The longer I worked with gifted kids and teens, the more I came to appreciate that the vigor they displayed while engaged in learning something new and relevant had an unexpected impact on me–their excitement became a non-prescription elixir that served as my personal fountain of youth. Thanks to gifted kids, I may look my age, yet I neither think nor act it. Thanks to gifted kids, I feel like Peter Pan.

If they’re lucky, parents of gifted kids retain this same degree of youth when they interact with their children. I mean how can you not giggle out loud when your 4-year-old daughter asks, “If butter melts yellow, and chocolate melts brown, why doesn’t snow melt white?” It’s a perfectly fine question, based on observational data your gifted kid picked up simply by being alert to the world. The answer to this question may evade you, but just the thought that someone so young has so much intellectual power and curiosity helps keep you mentally robust and alert. And how about when your 15-year-old son wants to engage you in an “oxymoron contest”, with some of his entries being “cafeteria food”, “authentic replicas”, “bigger half” and “Congressional wisdom”. Even if you can’t top these “instant classics” (another oxymoron), the banter between the two of you is bound to make you feel younger than your years.

Three and a half decades of gifted kids have introduced me to countless characters who have changed–indeed, enhanced–my life. I continue to cling to my youth today by doing part-time teaching of highly gifted 9th graders who are enrolled in college and by serving as a “Fellow” at IEA’s camp Yunasa every July, working with gifted 10-14 year olds at a YMCA camp in Michigan. Yeah, my soon-to-be-ancient bones ache when the alarm rings at 5:15 a.m. so I can get to school on time, and sleeping on a plastic-covered camp bed does little to enhance my burgeoning arthritis, yet underneath these physical discomforts remains one of the best feelings in the world: a continuing connection to gifted kids who keep my spirit alive and well.

Seek your own eternal youth: surround yourself with as many gifted kids as you can find.

Delisle_Jim_RGBAbout Jim Delisle:

Jim Delisle serves on the Board of Directors of IEA and interacts with gifted kids frequently. His upcoming book, Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Most Capable Youth, will be published in August, 2014.

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Mentor Spotlight: Dr. Veronica Eliasson

Dr. Eliasson and her research group, including an IEA Apprentice, during the summer of 2013. “I really like my research group,” Dr. Eliasson told us. “The students become part of my family.”

Dr. Eliasson and her research group, including an IEA Apprentice, during the summer of 2013. “I really like my research group,” Dr. Eliasson told us. “The students become part of my family.”

Dr. Veronica Eliasson
Assistant Professor, Department of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering at University of Southern California
Ph.D., Mechanics, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Research Interests:
Shock wave behavior in gases and liquids, shock wave focusing, fluid-solid interactions

For the last two summers, Dr. Veronica Eliasson has introduced high school students to shock wave research through IEA’s Apprenticeship Program. This program links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors like Dr. Eliasson who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences. Dr. Eliasson, who will be joining us as an Apprenticeship Mentor again this summer, took some time to talk to us about herself and her experiences.

Describe your educational journey.

My dad always told me I should get a Master’s degree in some kind of engineering area. I kept saying no — but somehow I still ended up with a Master’s degree in Engineering. My dad was right, he knew I had the interest and background to do well in such a program and that there are plenty of opportunities to shape your career any way you like afterwards.

So, when I was 19 I moved to Stockholm to attend KTH (Royal Institute of Technology). I applied to a program in Vehicle Engineering only because of the way their brochure looked (perhaps not the best way to pick your undergraduate/Master program). It had pictures of trains, boats and cars, and I thought it would be very interesting to understand the physics behind how they work. The last year I went in a different direction and specialized in nuclear safety. I thought it was very fascinating to learn more about nuclear fuel plants, how they operate and how to keep them safe. My Master’s thesis was conducted in collaboration with a nuclear fuel company, and when I was done I knew I wanted to attend a PhD program to learn more, not necessarily about nuclear fuel, but something with fluid mechanics. I applied for a PhD position at the Mechanics Department at KTH with a Professor working on shock waves (something I knew very little about). I got the position, and it was the beginning of a very fascinating journey, learning about shock waves through experiments and numerical simulations. It was scary in the beginning not knowing there was a “right” answer at the end, that no one knew ahead of time what the results of the experiments would be. It was very different, and certainly more fun, than taking a course where the correct answers to all questions are displayed at the end of the book.

Read more of our interview with Dr. Eliasson!