By Jennifer de la Haye
“I am happy to be in a room of too’s,” said Betsy Jones, IEA President, as we concluded IEA’s Summer Spotlight this year. “We are all too’s – too emotional, too smart, too intense….”
Tuesday, June 8, was a bright evening of community, learning, and friendship as IEA and its community gathered at the University of Southern California for dinner and a time of sharing. Eight IEA Apprentices, who studied Industrial Design under Stan Kong at Art Center College of Design, displayed their impressive concept design sketches – pieces of art that would later become final projects. Posters, books, and sculptures created by Academy students, Caroline D. Bradley Scholars, and Yunasa campers were also scattered about USC’s Vineyard Room, along with plenty of photos of Academy kids at The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens; Yunasa West campers frolicking in Colorado; and CDB Scholars who convened for the Bradley Seminar in April.
After dinner, IEA’s Program Coordinators introduced speakers from each of IEA’s programs. Min-Ling Li, the valiant leader of 29 Apprentices, began by announcing both Alex T., who is studying shock waves with Dr. Eliasson at USC, and Robert, an Industrial Design Apprentice.
Alex’s speech was an expounded acrostic he created from the letters of IEA: I –“I am Alex,” he began. This is Alex’s second year as an IEA Apprentice, and he thanked the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship program for introducing him to an opportunity that would change his life. “Once you are a part of IEA, you support it, and it supports you,” he said. E – “Eager. That is what the students here are,” Alex continued. Finally, A – “Apprentice…we are all Apprentices, because every day we learn something new. One thing I learned while I was here is of all the gifted children being overlooked by teachers. IEA works to find them and help them come to terms with their giftedness…Institute for Educational Advancement: intelligent, eager, able,” he concluded.
Robert, who came to the Los Angeles-based Apprenticeship Program all the way from Miami, is a first-year Apprentice who described his experience as a time of extremely hard work and the unbelievable opportunity to “study at a school he hopes to get into in a field he hopes to make a career out of.”
One of IEA’s earliest Caroline D. Bradley Scholars, Ryan, spoke next: “It’s much more than a monetary gift – it’s a community,” he said of CDB. According to Ryan, CDB helped him develop the confidence to be whatever it is he wanted to be. When it was time to apply for college, the CDB coordinator helped him apply. Ryan opted for Harvard, where he began by pursuing an education in engineering, ended up in neuroscience, found himself in musical theater, and finished his degree in creative arts. Now Ryan produces movies – Lego movies, of late.
Arden, a six-year-old Academy student, stood upon a chair to reach the microphone and talked about how, in the past year at IEA, he has taken a Shakespeare class from a professional actor, advanced his math skills with a teacher who made it fun, made his first short film, painted himself blue using ice and an infrared camera in his first Physics class, and was introduced to the Spanish language for the first time. “If that wasn’t enough,” he said, “IEA has given me this opportunity in public speaking!”
Finally, 10-year-old Alexander A., who also stood on a chair to speak, described Yunasa as a place where he is able to be himself, a place where he feels loved and accepted by all the people around him. At Yunasa and Yunasa West, Alexander has learned practical ways to help him calm down when he feels tense and emotional. He talked about Senior Fellows Patricia Gatto Walden, Ph.D., and Michael Piechowski, Ph.D., who have given him hugs and engaged him in conversations about deep and interesting things. Alexander’s favorite Yunasa activity is the low ropes course because, he said, “you get to work as a team to get through obstacles.”
When the young brilliant pundits of IEA finished their enlightening speeches, Betsy Jones told a story of a girl she met at Yunasa West this year. This young lady explained to Betsy that when she feels sad, she spends time with her “Too People.” She has always been told that she is “too intense, too distracted, too talkative, too quiet, too much,” so her stuffed animals became a family of “too’s” who provide a safe place where she can exist without feeling chastised. IEA has been around for 16 years, and it is still one of the only organizations in the world where, as Betsy said, these young brilliant individuals “can grow and learn and be and do whatever it is they want to do.”
Summer Spotlight was an evening of illumination – a light shone upon a community of “too’s” and the programs that help them to grow, succeed, learn, and feel safe to be themselves.
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