Alumni Interview: IEA’s Pipeline Program

October 3, 2017

Pipeline to Success was a pilot program developed by IEA in partnership with the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) and Avery Dennison Foundation. Designed specifically to serve highly able, underserved youth in PUSD, the program ran from 1999 to 2010. The program provided gifted middle and high school students in PUSD with enrichment classes, Personal Education Plans, and other services, and stressed strong relationships among students, teachers, parents, Program Coordinators and enrichment teachers.

We interviewed alum Niles Owens about his experience in the program and how it shaped his life as a student.

How did you become involved in IEA’s Pipeline program?
I believe I was selected around the time I was beginning middle school. It seemed like a great opportunity that my parents supported me pursuing.

What challenges did you face in your schooling experience?
When I got to [University of California, Riverside], it was hard for me to keep up with the pace of the quarter system. I went in thinking I was going to take 20 units a quarter and graduate early. I was hit with a dose of reality almost immediately. It would have made more sense for me to start slow and work my way up once I better understood how to keep up with the pace. This was not new for me because I had the same issue transitioning from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school.

How do you think this program changed your schooling experience and outlook towards education?
The program had a way of breaking things down more than my teachers had the opportunity or time to do. The program either offered extra help, or gave new information sooner than I would have gotten it in school. Because of that, I had a definite advantage in math, arts, and  the SAT’s.

How did the Pipeline program prepare you for college, your career, and/or adulthood?
It definitely gave me the opportunity to get more attention with teachers who were experts in their field. I remember the SAT Prep instructor helped improve my score over 200 points. He broke things down and helped me understand how the exam is scored and even what the graders look for in the writing portion. This helped me to understand that even if I’m good at something, it never hurts to have someone else help you improve something that you may already be good at.

Do you have a favorite memory from the Pipeline program?
Nothing was more memorable than the college tours. The classes were fun and always informative, but the college tours helped put everything together. I hadn’t had much exposure to college campuses until taking the trips with the Pipeline program. I can’t put into words how eye-opening of an experience those were for my friends and I. Some schools that I had not previously considered became strong contenders for enrollment and others that were contenders may have been removed from my list based off those tours.

In what ways do you think programs like this benefit gifted and highly-able students in public schools?
I think that programs like this help gifted students in public schools by providing the additional help to stay focused in a setting where their needs aren’t as nurtured as they probably should be. It’s easy for a young person to get discouraged, but they can also be uplifted when they are put around like-minded individuals and instructors who can give them additional attention.

What advice, given your experience with Pipeline, would you give to gifted children and their families?
Take advantage of the opportunities that programs like this present. Visit colleges and universities anytime you can. Visit the ones you like and don’t like, because you might change your mind. Get help in subjects that you think you already have a good understanding in. Lastly, it’s never too early to start prepping for college.

What have you been up to since completing high school (college, career, etc.)?
After graduating from Pasadena High School in 2007, I graduated from UC Riverside in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in Media and Cultural Studies. After UCR, I graduated from Cal Baptist University in 2014 with a Master’s in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sport Management. Currently, I work at UC Riverside’s Recreation Department as a Special Events and Operations Manager. I live in Moreno Valley, CA with my wife who I met while attending UCR.

I can honestly say that I owe a lot to the Pipeline program. If not for them, I might not have been as prepared as I was for high school and college.

If you are interested in learning more about the Pipeline to Success program or would like to speak with someone about bringing the program to your district, please visit the Pipeline webpage for more information.

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