Tag Archives: stories

Reflections on My International SJWP trip to Stockholm

By Anirudh, 2011 Caroline D. Bradley Scholar

2011 Caroline D. Bradley Scholar and then high school freshman Anirudh was selected as the winner of the United States Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP), “the world’s most prestigious award for water-related science and technology projects.” Anirudh recently traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to represent the U.S. at the International SJWP competition with his project, “Use of Sulfidation as a Novel Method for Reducing the Toxicity of Silver Nanoparticle Pollution.”

AnirudhAs the winner of U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) competition, I had the honor of representing the United States at the international SJWP competition held in Stockholm, Sweden in the first week of September. I am immensely grateful to Water Environment Federation (WEF) for giving me this fantastic opportunity. The overall experience, both inside and outside the competition, was incredibly enriching and somewhat hard to encapsulate in words, but I will try.

The days leading up to the competition were somewhat frenzied. Ms. Stevi Hunt-Cottrell of WEF took care of all the logistics and also supported me tirelessly with the minutest details on requirements for SJWP poster, dress codes and many other important things I would possibly not have thought of. As I sat on the long flight, I was excited and apprehensive at the same time. I had the tremendous responsibility of doing a good job of representing the U.S. in a global competition in a sea of worthy competitors from exotic places all over the world! I was unsure if I could relate to them, or communicate with them effectively, given the cultural and language barriers.

Soon after I landed in the Stockholm airport, I happened to meet the students from Netherlands and France. Almost immediately my initial fears were proven to be unfounded. All of them spoke fluent English and were so easy to talk to. Not only did we have similar interests in science and water research, we connected on other things such as soccer. This became a recurring theme as I met the rest of the group later. I made many good friends during that short week – people I would always stay in touch with. I still remember how seven of my closest friends stayed up until 4:00 AM on the last day to see me off to the airport. I was extremely touched that they all sacrificed their sleep to say good-bye to me.

Read more about Anirudh’s experience!

A 16 Year Old’s Guide to Colleges

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Be sure to check out the first part of Lisa’s college road trip journey!

ElonWe were 5 minutes into the student-led tour and I knew the school wasn’t the right place for my son. Our guide led us down the hallway of a beautiful colonial building. The walls were lined with cork board and sheets of brightly colored paper framing announcements and pictures of professors and administrators. “No, no, no,” I thought. “He’s going to hate this.”

I was trying to think like a 16 year old boy, or at least, my 16 year old boy. I had promised myself that I would allow him to set his own criteria when evaluating colleges. I admired how he navigated class selection, extracurricular activities and the work/life balance in his high school. I would not substitute my values for his now that he was looking for a college. So I tried to see the college through my son’s eyes.

It turns out that I was right—he hated the school. While the environment looked warm and nurturing to me, he felt smothered by the level of support suggested by the cheerfully decorated hallway and confirmed by our tour guide. We made a hasty exit at the tour’s end, skipping the information session and catching an earlier train to New York City. On the way out, my son said that he was really glad we made the trip. “I didn’t know if I would recognize a bad fit if I saw one. Now I know. I can trust my instincts.”

Thus began my son’s search for a methodology to assess the colleges we were visiting. What follows are his indicators of college excellence:

1. Personal Freedom

My son is on a quest for autonomy. He wants support at college to be available and encouraged, but not conspicuous. He disapproves of schools with multiple student committees tasked to help freshmen with everything from writing to public speaking skills. If he wants help, he will ask his professor. Jesuit priests in your dorm? Minus 5 points. A campus policy that encourages students to ask professors to lunch and gives them the funds to do it? Plus 10 points.
See what other factors were important to Lisa’s son!

The College Road Trip

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

ElonIt’s the only fun part of the college application process: the college trip. It’s the chance for your child to dream before the harsh realities of test scores, class rank and GPAs hit. Best of all, parents are active participants. We get to be accomplices to the dream worlds our children are imagining.

Three years ago, I eagerly anticipated bonding with my oldest son on our whirlwind tour of 6 colleges in the east and one in the Midwest. I memorialized the trip with pictures of him scraping the snow off the windshield of our rented car, waking up with bed head and sampling cannoli in Boston. He was not amused. The defining moment of our trip happened during dinner midway into the week.

“I haven’t seen anyone in so long,” he said.

I not only wasn’t bonding with him, I wasn’t even someone.

Read more of Lisa’s story!

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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The Many Faces of Gifted: Melissa

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 Apprenticeship Program – mentioned in this story – 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.

Melissa Mai Headshot

Melissa M.
2013 Apprentice, Astronomy, California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

“Seeing the way the professors critiqued their students truly was an unexpected treasure of the Apprenticeship Program, as it revealed, unfiltered, the true dynamics of a research environment and showcased the intrinsically collaborative nature of research,” Melissa said about her four-week IEA Apprenticeship at Caltech last summer.

“I worked under Drs. Djorgovski, Donalek, and Mahabal in Caltech’s Department of Astronomy to create interactive, multimedia presentations using the WorldWide Telescope platform. My main job was to take data from my Mentors’ research about atomic emission spectra, Doppler shifting, and variability, and present it in a way that the everyday person can understand through ‘tours’ on the program. I worked with one other apprentice, Daniel Wright, who worked on a tour about asteroids.”

Learn more about Melissa!

Brains or Beauty? Raising a Gifted Girl

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?

From the New York Times piece “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?”

I gave my 13-year-old daughter makeup for Christmas. I slipped powder, a makeup brush and tinted lip gloss in her stocking. At the time, I was aware of the message I might be sending, but I wanted her to stop raiding my makeup drawer when her friends come over. I didn’t want to take responsibility for the purchases, so they went into her stocking. Santa still fills the stockings.

I might have forgotten about my Christmas dilemma if I hadn’t read the New York Times op-ed piece “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?”  The author reviewed Google searches that used the words son or daughter. According to the author, parents are 2 ½ times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” On the other hand, parents are much more likely to initiate searches relating to their daughters’ appearance. The piece ends with the question “How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?”

Read more about Lisa’s dilemma.

Don’t Count Her Out: A Review of Counting By 7s

Counting By 7s - a review

By Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by Seth Freeman, Writer/Producer and IEA Board Member

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old girl who sees the world in multiples of 7, patterns involving 7, subsets of 7. 7 is her favorite number.

She can learn a new language, even one as difficult as Vietnamese, in a couple of months. She will get a perfect score on pretty much any SAT-type of test that she takes, and she will finish the test in a fraction of the time allotted.

She is neither arrogant nor falsely modest about her abilities. Her facility is simply a fact of the universe, something she studies, like the growth of plants, human disease conditions, and human behavior in general. Willow also happens to be a very caring person, keenly observant and slyly funny, and it is a pleasure to share her company on every page of Counting by 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan’s smart, engaging, and deeply moving new novel.

But Willow is also someone who has experienced more misfortune in her short life than any kid or even adult should ever have to endure. With the help of a small group of off-beat, yet well-drawn and believable, characters, Willow not only survives, she thrives, and somehow, as she meets the challenges of adversity, she manages to elevate the lives of almost everybody with whom she comes in contact.

Counting by 7s is a wonderful book, entertaining and thoughtful enough to gain a wide readership beyond its target audience of young adults. The adventures of its appealing central character will make it a novel of special interest to anyone who knows or who has experienced the life of a gifted young person.

Is there a book or resource that you love? Please share with us by commenting below or by emailing IEAgifted@educationaladvancement.org. We’d love your input for our next recommendation!

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My Passion for Learning

By Min-Ling Li, IEA Program Coordinator

Growing up alongside my older sister and younger brother, I knew I was different from other kids. They played and studied with a little bit of a carefree nature, whereas I was almost always overly inquisitive, constantly asking “why?” and “how?” When I started elementary school in America as an English language learner, it was difficult for me to communicate this same curiosity. I asked the same questions, and teachers would often speak to me slower, ask me to re-read or, if available, send me to a volunteer translator with no content knowledge to find the answer. Finally, in the third grade, I was tested in the Los Angeles public school system and identified as gifted. I remember going to school on a Saturday morning and meeting a nice lady who insisted I be “natural.” I vividly remember the pattern on the circular carpet I walked around and around as she asked me questions in Cantonese and English.

Read more of Min-Ling’s story!

The Many Faces of Gifted: Arden

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted child has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs, depicting the many faces of gifted. Academy – mentioned in this story – provides young students with challenging enrichment classes that focus on exploration and application of knowledge.

JKL November

Academy Student

Although Arden is not yet six years old, he’s already been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, met Al Gore, been featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live twice, and received a personal letter of encouragement from Bill Clinton. Arden garnered this attention because of his love and extensive knowledge of world geography and presidential history.

Learn more about Arden!