Johns Hopkins Gazette: June 12, 1995

CTY Turns 15: Smart Kids Learn They're Not 'Nerds'

Chris Rowett
Homewood News and Information

     Admittedly, some students just don't fit in.

     "I was the nerd," said Erica Gum, recalling her school days
in Beaver Creek, Ohio. "I was the brain."

     When she started a pre-calculus course through Hopkins'
Center for Talented Youth in the summer of 1983, she met students
with similar interests and opinions. 

     "I wasn't the oddball anymore," she said, laughing. "We're
all nerds."

     Gum, 26, is one of thousands of students who have
participated in CTY academic programs since 1980. The
organization commemorated its 15-year anniversary at a reception

     Through CTY, academically advanced students are identified
by national talent searches, then honored at regional
celebrations throughout the country. Then they are invited to
participate in one or two class sessions over the summer. For
some students, it is the first time they are challenged

     "I was more interested in learning and in a faster pace of
learning than what was taught at my school," said Gum, who took
courses at Hopkins' Lancaster, Pa., site. 

     The three-week experience is also the first time many have
sat in classrooms with a group made up solely of advanced

     "My classmates [in Ohio] and I didn't have similar
interests," Gum said, citing current events and science. "At CTY,
I could talk about politics, and people wouldn't look at me like
I had two heads."

     CTY students are not given grades, a fact, some say, that
eliminates competition found in some schools.     

     "Students cooperate a lot more," said Tina Wu, the
20-year-old president of the CTY Alumni Association. "They help
each other out."

     Wu spent four summers taking a variety of classes, also at
the Lancaster, Pa., site.

     "At first it was a bit intimidating, but it got to be a real
rewarding experience," the Parsippany Hills, N.J., resident said.
"All the kids there are self-motivated."

     Gum credits the experience for her successful college
career. She graduated from Hopkins in 1991 and went on to get her
master's in public policy from Duke. For the past nine months,
she has served as a legislative analyst for Senate budget
committee chair Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).

     "CTY was wonderful because it challenged me," she said. "And
I proved to myself that I could do it."

     Joe Sigelman understands the organization from two angles,
as a student for four years and later as an instructor in
Carlisle and Lancaster, Pa.

     "In some schools, the goal is to do well on tests rather
than to understand things fundamentally," said Sigelman, a
24-year-old who graduated from Princeton and is headed for
Harvard Business School. "We had the opportunity to develop
amazing analytical skills."

     He believes those skills would benefit any career.

     "Any field CTYers ultimately go into, they challenge
themselves to be the best in the field," Sigelman said. "We
learned that you work for yourself; you don't work to compete."

     Sharing a healthy learning atmosphere created a bond between
students, he said.

     "Some of the great friendships I developed at CTY seemed to
last," Sigelman said.

     "I got to know people who are more like me," Wu added. "We
have a lot of common experiences."

CTY Extends Its Reach

     The Center for Talented Youth is commemorating 15 years of
service by expanding, it was announced Saturday. Nearly 200
students, parents, alumni and other supporters gathered at the
Glass Pavilion on the Homewood campus over the weekend for a
15-year anniversary celebration and the announcement.

     The new organization will be known as the Institute for the
Academic Advancement of Youth and will serve as an umbrella
coalition for CTY and the Center for Academic Advancement.

     In addition to academic programs and its talent search, CTY
has developed outreach and consultation services with schools
internationally and nationally. The organization also conducts
research, produces and distributes publications, and recognizes
outstanding teachers and administrators. CTY has offices in
Baltimore and Glendale, Calif.

     William G. Durden, former CTY director, is the newly named
executive director of IAAY.

     "The IAAY will forward the original intentions of a
distinctly American education as first proposed in the 18th
century," Durden said. "Our expansion will permit our
organization to continue to meet most flexibly and efficiently
the challenges facing talent advancement in the 21st century."

     Just more than 100 students were involved with CTY's
academic programs at its inception; last year more than 6,000
students took CTY courses. National talent searches tested 11,000
students in 1980; more than 55,000 in 19 states and the District
of Columbia were tested last year.

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