(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of four articles covering the open house that the Mingo County Extended Learning Center held Tuesday, Oct. 23.)
DELBARTON — There exists a groups of students beyond other students when it comes to thinking. They are called gifted students within Mingo County and there is a program specially designed for them at the Mingo County Extended Learning Center.
Bernice Carter and Joann Clusky teach the 42 students enrolled in the program, and travel to every school in the county to interact with them. Once or twice a month, the students come to the center for events and activities.
Gifted doesn’t always mean special needs, Carter told the Daily News. Gifted is a broad term and usually refers to students who have significantly higher intelligence quotients than average students, usually around 130 or higher. The “best of the best,” as Carter put it.
“We have accelerated programs and activities that enrich the students,” she said “In order to qualify for the program, students must meet higher standards. We try to expose children to things they may not have had a chance to experience.”
Experiences those students might not have gotten to partake in range from trips to Washington D.C. and New York to simply encouraging them to think outside the proverbial box, or, for elementary school kids, simply ordering their own meal.
For high school students, Carter and Clusky assist in college interviews and visits, taking students to college recruiting centers and helping them apply to scholarships.
However, students are typically dismissed at eighth-grade as mandated by state law. Although some students are kept within the program if need be.
Students, contrary to popular belief, Clusky said, are not usually gifted in all subjects. They usually have one specialization or focus, such as a massive interest in language arts or mathematics. Some students, she said, are gifted in multiple areas though.
And the Gifted Students program doesn’t stop assisting students when the school year is over.
“We have summer camps,” Clusky said. “We’ve helped children go to a variety of camps too, like space camp and NASA camp. We pay for them to go to gifted camps if they’re economically deprived.
“It’s a good program,” she said. “We try to help them perform to their capabilities.”
Clusky also said that when a gifted student is alone, they seem to be quieter and more reserved, but that when they are all together in a group, they open up and are far more lively.
“It’s fascinating to see them work together,” she said.
In fact, Clusky said it was just fascinating to see how any of their minds work on a given subject. She gave an example of teaching the students about the electoral college with the upcoming election looming and said that she was amazed at the type of questions the students at that age group were asking.
“They just want that information,” she said. “They’re so eager to just learn.”
Carter told a story of how a student had quit the program and had dropped out of school. Without giving many details due to confidentiality, she said that she was able to help the student get motivated and back into school. That student now attends a major university with a full-ride scholarship paying the way.
And how does it feel to know you make such an impact in the lives of students?
“Just to make a difference, what more could you ask for?” Clusky said.
Tomorrow’s article will cover the other features available and what the center hopes to achieve in its future.