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The Many Faces of Gifted: Matthew

Interview 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 camp – mentioned in this story – unites 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.


Yunasa Camper

Matthew lives on the island of Java in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. He is 13 years old, is home schooled and has traveled to Camp Copneconic in Fenton, Michigan, for the last two summers to attend Yunasa.

How did Matthew hear about Yunasa?
Matthew first learned about Yunasa through his mentor. “Mark Lediard has been my mentor for three years now, beginning from the age where I was withdrawn from formal schooling. He and I now meet regularly to discuss opportunities for my enrichment and intellectual expansion, including out-of-country learning and meetings with learned professionals. It was through Mark’s collaboration with a homeschooling curriculum adviser named Kathi Kearney that I learned of Yunasa, and I was quick to jump at the prospect.”

But why Yunasa?
“Indonesia, despite being diverse both culturally and biologically, does not have the inherent essence that Yunasa offers. Although the country does have camps, most are relatively generic when compared to Yunasa; mostly they fall within the categories of academic, ecological, or religious. It can be said that the reason for my participation was to experience these new spiritual aspects that no other camp could seem to offer.”

What has he gained from attending Yunasa?
“Words alone cannot describe the effects Yunasa have had on me; intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually. I have met people with radically varying perspectives, others with opinions very akin to my own, and those still who have enhanced me and the way I see myself by their personalities and experiences. Here, I found an arena to discuss and debate the theories I hold so dear, and to marvel at the ambitions of others who were driven by that same desire to cultivate humanity.”

What does Matthew like about Yunasa?
“The experience of Yunasa was terrifically structured, and my greatest thanks go to the IEA staff for organizing and providing such a seamless daily schedule. The topics and contributions of the Senior Fellows were invaluable in expanding my intellectual and emotional repertoire and are inspiring to reflect on, especially when considering their many possibilities.”

What part of Yunasa has had the greatest effect on Matthew?
“Although I meditate in my daily life, the concept of psychosynthesis itself intrigued me, and I quickly found out why. In the process, I experienced undoubtedly profound visions of the unified continuum of time; often, I would leave the session pondering my beliefs and what it meant to be there. Frankly, I cannot wait to experience pychosynthesis again next year and see what I may experience.”

What similarities does he find between himself and the other campers?
“I find that in a myriad of ways, we share similar perspectives, interests, and ways of comprehending reality. I can say that I have never felt more assimilated into a community than Yunasa’s gestalt, especially when considering I have lived in a foreign society for all my life. In this way, Yunasa is a sanctuary, a home for me. Even before I arrived, I had an innate knowing of the events to come, as it is an undeniable fact that Yunasa has that powerful quality of making one feel completely and utterly at ease with his surroundings, his peers, and most importantly, his inner beliefs.”

Does Matthew keep in touch with other campers throughout the year?
“As a matter of fact, I regularly keep in touch with my closer friends via email and online sources. They inform me on a constant basis about their current activities and circumstances, and it has happened more than once that we have asked each other for aid on issues that cannot be resolved by only a single perspective. It is an honor to know and communicate with these individuals, and I consider them to be important in my development.”

What does he do in his free time, and where does he see himself in the future?
“Being in the cultural fusion that is Indonesia, I am exposed to a wide variety of people, perspectives, and religions on a daily basis, even within my own household. The most enjoyable pastime is observing how all of these fundamentally different groups cooperate and interact in a common environment, even though many share dividing opinions and views.”

He also enjoys reading and writing, “mainly due to the unbounded creativity that they grant me in shaping myself as an individual. I greatly appreciate the intellectual diversity I gain from books and that I can create with writing. I believe that the greatest gift that is bestowed upon the world is the written word, and the knowledge that stems thereof.”

Like many gifted children, Matthew draws connections between different intellectual and spiritual subjects to make more sense of the world and wants to contribute positively to the world around him. “From a young age, I have expressed an intuitive knowing in the existence of an unseen organizational structure above the chaos of reality, and with it, a pressing need to aid humanity in grasping the concept of realms far beyond their understanding. Over time, this ambition progressed to an interest in the fields of theoretical physics and the philosophy of consciousness, namely Ontology. For as long as this aspiration has stood, I have dedicated my life to the unification of science and spirituality, the empirical and abstract. My purpose, I believe, is to aid humankind in reading what Einstein once termed as ‘The Mind of God.’”

Do you or your children want to share your experiences of being gifted? Please leave us a comment below or email us at IEAgifted@educationaladvancement.org!

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Yunasa 2012!

By Jen Mounday

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa and Yunasa West summer camps unite highly able youngsters and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives.

Yunasa 2012 Campers

2012 saw another memorable year of Yunasa in Flint, Michigan. Campers arrived on Sunday, July 22, at Camp Copneconic with great anticipation for the week to come and left mid-morning on July 29 elated from a week of flourishing at camp. Yunasa is more than your average summer camp—it’s a week-long exploration of one’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical self. The week was a success on all levels, as campers took away valuable life lessons, deeper bonds with peers, and unforgettable memories.

A high ropes course, offered as one of the many camper options, tested campers’ physical and risk taking abilities.

A camper tests her limits on the high ropes course

A camper tests her balance on the high ropes course

Psychosynthesis sessions were led by our Fellows, experts in the growth and development of gifted youth, each morning. Campers practiced guided visualization and relaxation techniques. Many campers said that Psychosynthesis was their favorite part of the day.


IEA Senior Fellow Patricia Gatto-Walden leads a small group of campers in a Psychosynthesis session

The Emerging Leaders (ELs) hosted a camp-wide talent show, including a comedy routine, musical performances, and a choreographed dance.

Talent Show

Campers perform at a talent show hosted by the ELs

One camp session was an ongoing Rube Goldberg project, where campers used various materials to construct a complex machine that, in the end, would perform a simple task. After much deliberation, campers opted to make a device that would put a hat on someone’s head.

Rube Goldberg machine

Campers work to construct a Rube Goldberg machine that will place a hat on someone’s head

The Counselors in Training (CITs) put on the annual Yunasa Olympics. Physically and mentally challenging, the events included in the Olympics vary from year to year. A game of Quidditch was the highlight this year!

Quidditch match

Campers play a game of Quidditch during the Yunasa Olympics

Bubble making stations were set up outside the conference center and available throughout the entire week. Campers enjoyed the option during down-time in the midst of an eventful camp schedule.

A camper makes bubbles in between camp sessions

A camper makes large bubbles in between camp sessions

During the week, campers become a part of the Yunasa family. Many campers describe Yunasa as a time of true friendship and togetherness.

Campers walk through Yunasa summer camp for the gifted

Campers walk from activity to activity arm in arm, showcasing the feeling of a Yunasa family

Throughout the week, campers were encouraged by staff and their peers. Many campers felt “at home” and inspired to be their authentic selves. There were multiple unique opportunities for personal growth. With physical activities such as horseback riding, water sports, zip lining, and ropes courses, campers were challenged to develop confidence in their athletic abilities. With the support of the Fellows and IEA staff, they also grew emotionally with one another and in self-awareness. Campers called on their spiritual abilities to connect with the world around them through activities such as Spirit Journey and Call in the Directions. Intellectually, campers enjoyed sharing with one another in an environment of acceptance and mutual understanding. Our hope is for these campers to return home with cherished Yunasa memories to share and hold onto until we meet again next year.

Campers hanging out

Thank you to Nicholas Farrell for taking these photos at camp!

For more photos from Yunasa, click on the button below. Also, be sure to check out the article about Yunasa in The Flint Journal!

What was your child’s favorite part of Yunasa this year? Please share with us in the comment section below.

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Yunasa West 2012!

IEA’s pioneering Yunasa and Yunasa West summer camps unite highly able youngsters and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children. Campers explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical aspects of their lives. 2012 was the inaugural year for Yunasa West, which took place June 10-17 in Sedalia, Colorado.

Yunasa West campers

There was a lot of excitement and some uncertainty going into Yunasa West – how would our beloved Yunasa camp work in the Rocky Mountains instead of on the shore of a Midwestern lake? Would the altitude prove challenging for our campers? Though there were a number of questions going into Yunasa West, coming out of it there is only affirmation.

The week was a rousing success. Our campers were challenged intellectually and supported emotionally. They engaged in social, creative, and fun activities throughout each day and had formed a true “Yunasa family” by the end of the week.

Low Ropes Course

Low ropes worked as a team building exercise where campers had to communicate and lead each other across the ropes to reach a final destination.


Druidawn, a creative writing and role playing summer camp, captivated all the campers with the task of creating mythological worlds and the characters that reside there. Campers enjoyed the challenge of coming up with original settings and creatures!

Zombie Princesses

On Friday, the girls initiated a zombie princess party that was a huge success!

Gaga Ball

“Gaga ball” was a huge hit for campers. A few of them played every day of camp.


During one of Dan’s workshops, campers were taught to make a labyrinth with rocks they collected from around camp. By the end of the week, the labyrinth was complete—a 30 by 30 foot wonder in which campers, Fellows, staff, and visitors could walk through meditatively.

Calling in the Directions

Each day of camp began with a “Call in the Directions.” On the final day of camp, we did this at the labyrinth and set an intention for the campers as they parted ways. It was a special time of reflection.

Terry Bradley came up to camp for a day to have students make a craft that represented the stressors in their lives and what strategies they use to deal with the stress. Terry also offered a chat in which she told about her life. She was greatly received and appreciated by the campers.

Campers thoroughly enjoyed singing silly campfire songs. Open mic night was another time of laughs, applause and appreciation for one another. One of the campers told an original mystery story that gave everyone goose bumps.

Our gratitude ceremony, part of our closing activities, was almost 45 minutes of the campers spontaneously sharing their memories of joy and fun and gratitude over the week. It felt like a culmination of the week – everyone celebrating their memories and experiences together, with many, many campers pledging to return for future years. It was a pleasure and an honor to see a community develop among these unique, thoughtful, shining-eyed campers as the week unfolded!

Although 2012 marks the first year of Yunasa West, the camp still captured and relied on the deep-rooted traditions and values of the Yunasa family. Campers were encouraged by staff, counselors, and Fellows to explore the five aspects of Self: body, mind, spirit, heart, and social self.

Many of the campers immediately felt comfortable with each other and were even surprised by the level of comfort they experienced with one another. It was an absolute joy to watch these kids as they made new friends, participated in camp activities and games, connected with the Fellows, and shared honest conversation with each other.

The level of intelligence, maturity, and emotional depth among the campers was inspiring. Our hope is for these campers to return home feeling encouraged, accepted, alive to themselves and the possibilities, and maybe a little exhausted from all the fun!

Also, be sure to check out the photos from camp!

What were your kids’ favorite parts of Yunasa West? Please share with us in the comment section below!

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7 Questions with Amy Cannon

Amy Cannon is a Program Coordinator at IEA. She has worked here for over two years and in the administrative support of educational programs for over six. Her primary focus at IEA is on the Yunasa camps.

1. What are you most passionate about in working with the gifted community?

I am probably most energized by gifted kids’ excitement to know and understand the world. So often, their desire to question and explore is dampened by teachers who want them to stay on task, peers who pressure them to fit in, and parents who aren’t sure how to meet their children’s insatiable need to know. It is this motivation and drive that makes the gifted so likely to shape our future – to contribute inventions, innovations, and discoveries to our world. I love the spark of curiosity I see in all the kids we work with and want to do what I can to fan that spark into a flame!

2. What is one thing you think every family with a gifted child should know?

So often parents will call or email and talk about how unique their child’s situation is – how few equal peers they have, how they present a novel challenge to their school structures, how what they deal with is unlike what they see around them. As someone who administers programs for the gifted, I can assure them: “You are not alone.” There are others out there who have the same struggles, the same challenges, and the same wonderful gifts. What I love about Yunasa camps, and about all of IEA’s programs, is that we provide the opportunity for the gifted to connect – across the country and sometimes across the world – with others who are like them and who share their experiences, joys, and challenges. To observe the strong friendships and lasting community forged in our programs among our constituents is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

3. Why do you enjoy focusing on the program that you do?

Yunasa camps are my main focus as a Program Coordinator. All our programs are wonderful and rewarding opportunities, but I particularly enjoy working with Yunasa because of the opportunity to go to camp! I love the outdoors; that I get to go kayaking or build a Nature Sculpture with campers as a part of my job is unbelievable! I am also immensely grateful that I am able to work so closely with our Yunasa Fellows, world-renowned experts in the field of giftedness, and wise, kind, sensitive people from whom I personally have learned a great deal.

4. What’s your favorite Yunasa tradition?

Yunasa summer camps, as with most summer camps, are rich with traditions that are handed down from year to year. My favorite tradition might be the opening and closing ceremonies. The campfire, the drum beat, and the songs are the same, but the feeling is so different from the beginning of the week to the end. I love feeling how the traditions have deepened with the campers over the span of just one week!

5. What’s your favorite snack food?

I love cheese more than is probably healthy. I love a spread of cheese, crackers, fruits, and meats. It feels “fancy” but is excessively easy to put together!

6. What’s a movie you watched recently that you liked?

I recently watched “Paper Moon,” which I loved. It has Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, a real-life father and daughter playing a father and daughter con artist team in the movie. Tatum O’Neal was the youngest actor ever to receive an Academy Award, which she won for her portrayal in this movie at age 10. It was made in 1973, is set in the Great Depression, and is funny, witty, and moving.

7. What’s one activity you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’m a voracious reader, so I spend a lot of time doing that! Since moving to Pasadena, I’ve tried to take advantage of being so close to the San Rafael Hills and San Gabriel Mountains and get in a lot of hikes! I also very much enjoy exploring around Los Angeles – Chinatown, Our Lady of the Angels cathedral, Little Tokyo, Olvera St. Taking the metro around L.A. and finding new places to explore and cultural opportunities to benefit from make me glad to live in such a vibrant city! Recently, I took up the ukulele – though I’m far from proficient, it’s come in handy for a sing-along or two. Sadly, I don’t think it will fit in my carry-on for camp!

There are still a few spots left for this summer’s Yunasa and Yunasa West camps. Apply today to join Amy and the Yunasa Fellows in Colorado or Michigan!

Have your kids been to Yunasa or a camp that allowed them to connect with other kids like them? Please share your experience in the comment section below!

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Considering Summer Camps and Programs for Your Gifted Child

By Jennifer Kennedy

Yunasa Campers

Summer opportunities allow gifted kids to connect with others around shared interests and experiences.

It’s time to start thinking about your kids’ summer plans!  There are great summer opportunities available for gifted children, and many have applications due in the next month or two.

There are several types of summer opportunities to consider, but the two most common are:

  1. Day Camps and Programs
  2. Residential Camps and Programs

IEA offers summer programs in both of these categories.

  • Academy is a day enrichment program in South Pasadena, California, that provides high-achieving elementary and middle school students with challenging classes that focus on exploration and application of knowledge. Courses this summer will include favorites like Chemistry and Rocket to Calculus, as well as brand new class options.
  • Apprenticeship is a three or four week residential program that matches gifted students from across the country with highly-regarded mentors in fields like science, industrial design, math, and medicine. This year’s program will be offered in Los Angeles and San Diego.
  • Yunasa and Yunasa West are week long residential camps for highly gifted 10-14 year olds. The camps are facilitated by renowned experts in the field of gifted education and are devoted to teaching campers techniques for integrating the intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical aspects of their lives.

Because each child is unique, the ideal program for each child will vary, so consider your child’s personality before deciding on a camp or program. As Dr. Bob Schultz of the University of Toledo points out, you may want to keep in mind that intensities in gifted children will have an enormous impact on their experiences at an overnight camp, so the set-up and focus of residential camps are important. NAGC’s Parenting for High Potential has a list of questions to ask about camps and programs in order to help match your child with the best summer opportunity for their strengths, needs, and interests.

Once you have decided what type of program is best for your gifted child, there are many resources available to help you find those opportunities, including the following:

  • IEA’s Gifted Resource Center allows you to search for summer programs for gifted kids using specific criteria such as location, keywords, and age group.
  • Hoagies’ Gifted has an extensive list of summer programs for gifted kids by state.
  • The National Association for Gifted Children also has a database of summer programs searchable by state and keyword.
  • The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented has a list of summer programs specifically for gifted kids in Texas and throughout the U.S.

Good luck with your search!

Have any more tips for finding summer camps and programs for your child? Let us know in the comments!

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