By Min-Ling Li
Min-Ling is IEA’s Apprenticeship Program Coordinator. IEA’s residential summer Apprenticeship Program links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences. These life lessons in personal and intellectual development are invaluable to their growth and assist them in making pertinent connections for the future.
Min-Ling (far left) with the four- and seven-week Apprentices
“Everything you can imagine is real.” Pablo Picasso
I had the honor of spending seven weeks – a time that has magically flown by – alongside wonderful students whom I could not get enough of. Their passion and diligence radiated all around them, and I watched each of them grow over the course of the summer. I feel privileged to have been witness to not only their physical growth (hair and height) but to the development of their perseverance and the bloom of their self-confidence.
As an IEA Apprentice, students must possess an innate desire to learn and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Driven by these characteristics, each Apprentice worked alongside eminent professionals, becoming a vital part of a research team and/or project. These opportunities posed challenges that gifted students typically do not face in the classroom. The unique difficulties posed by the need to acquire as much knowledge of a subject as possible in an effort to become a productive contributor and by entering into professional cultures they had not yet experienced helped each student develop a newfound maturity. Doctors, research scientists, lawyers, and I comprised the team of mentors who committed to providing support for the Apprentices as they began to mature intellectually and socially, and we provided opportunities for them to learn and to succeed on their own laurels.
Apprentices cultivated relationships with each other and found the acceptance and the strength they needed to conquer the challenges they faced. After each arduous work day, dinner was the time when they shared their struggles to comprehend complex science jargon, algorithms, design techniques, and intricate medical procedures, all the while discussing their experiences with hot wire cutters and petri dishes. Somehow, dinner conversations always culminated in discussions about who they were rooting for on MasterChef or the games they planned to play back at the dorm.
During the evenings and on weekends, Resident Advisers and I engaged the Apprentices’ teenage selves. In an effort to bridge asynchronous highly able minds with their adolescent emotional and psychological needs, we played Pictionary, bowled, went ice skating, and attended a baseball game. Many of the kids also completed summer AP assignments, and many watched a Harry Potter marathon. Astonishingly, I watched each of the Apprentices achieve balance.
At this time last year, I could only dream of these young adults, who have now exceeded all of my expectations. It is now time to plan for next year’s program, and I can only imagine who the phenomenal students will be that take part in Apprenticeship 2015.
See photos from Apprenticeship 2014!
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