by Qiao Li, Coordinator
Why is Community Important?
Community is the foundation of our social life. A healthy community provides support, encouragement, affirmation, and a sense of belonging to all members. Feeling loved and accepted also fosters good behavioral patterns, increase productivity, inspire creativity.
Although there are tremendous benefits in building and belonging in a community, the greatest social epidemic of our modern life is isolation. It is not always easy for everyone to find their “tribe”, especially if they are different from the majority; such is the case for gifted and high ability learners.
Why is There a Need?
Gifted and high ability learners possess exceptional capability to reason and learn in one or more domains. They are critical thinkers, curious learners, innovators, and sensitive individuals.
There are estimated six to ten percent of students in the U.S. who are gifted and high ability learners, roughly three to five million students. Though this is by no means a small number, spread them out through the nation, they are still minority groups in most schools. It is much harder for gifted students to find their community.
Though gifted students possess high potential, they are not always top performers. Research shows that 25% of gifted people are underachievers, and they quit trying because nothing they do leads to any measurable success or satisfaction. Lacking the support from a community can exacerbate these outcomes.
Adding social-economic divide to this challenge, the picture becomes more dire. One study shows the gaps between top performing socioeconomically disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers were significant. In fact, high-achieving, low-income students are equally likely to attend college as low-scoring high-income students. These students need a support group that can help them to unlock their potential.
Without a nurturing community, feeling alone, misunderstood, and unchallenged, many gifted and high ability learners get bored, frustrated, or develop bad study habits. Without a community, we are creating a persistent talent underclass.
What is it Like to Have a Community?
Imagine witnessing the moment when someone talks about their passion with sparkles in their eyes, imagine the tears of joy when someone dares to try something new and take ownership of their potential that they didn’t even know existed.
Each summer, gifted teens from across the country, sometimes from outside the United States, gather to spend a week-long retreat at IEA’s Yunasa camps – Yunasa West in Colorado, and Yunasa in Michigan.
Campers from all backgrounds bring a variety of interests and talents, providing an opportunity for all to grow in a diverse environment.
More than a traditional summer sleep-away camp, Yunasa provides a combination of camp activities and enriching workshops designed specifically to help gifted teens find balance as they develop greater awareness and a sense of adventure.
Prior to Yunasa, many campers are trained to focus on just a single aspect of self. At camp, through activities like giants’ ladder, aqua jump, yoga, nature walk, music improv, and many more, they learn to recognize and nurture other aspects of self, while learning the importance of leadership, teamwork, and trust.
Communities are critical for the functioning of a healthy society. For children who learn differently from the majority of their peer group, it is especially important to have a strong supporting network that can help them grow both professionally and personally.
What kind of community do you envision for gifted children and all children? Are there examples you would like to share?
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 adapted from The Gifted Kids Survival Guide: A Teen Handbook
 Plucker, J. A., J. Hardesty, and N. Burroughs. “Talent on the sidelines: Excellence gaps and America’s persistent talent underclass.” Storrs: University of Connecticut, Center for Education Policy Analysis. Retrieved from http://www. cepa. uconn. edu/research/mindthegap (2013).
 Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski, “Inequality in Postsecondary Attainment,” 2011. In Greg Duncan and
Richard Murnane, eds., Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, pp. 117-132. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.