by Ellen Gruber, Development Coordinator
Walking behind the Barder House on Thursday evening, anyone familiar with IEA’s home might have been surprised to see an expansive white tent where a parking lot would normally be, decorated with strings of fluttering red bunting and filled with smiling families gathered around a hearty taco buffet, sharing a laugh in the warm summer evening. Standing at a podium under a collection of faceted stars, IEA President Betsy Jones welcomed new friends from near and far, as well as guests from our Academy, CDB, Yunasa and EXPLORE programs to our annual Summer Spotlight event. Over the course of the evening, attendees were introduced to enthusiastic students representing all of IEA’s programs and learned about just a few of the opportunities and challenges that are facing gifted children in our nation’s educational system.
New Academy student Pablo Delgado and his family traveled across town to be at our event. Reflecting on the early wake-up times, the morning rush to get out the door, and the long drives required to arrive in time for classes, Pablo merely stated, “It is all worth it…When I’m in class I feel happy, excited and ready. When my family picks me up, I have a smile on my face because of the amazing day I had at the Academy.”
Travelling from even further away was David Johnson, a Yunasa West camper from Illinois, and Seth Talyansky, a CDB Scholar from Oregon, both of whom were completing externships in Los Angeles as part of IEA’s EXPLORE program. “It’s about exploration, it’s about chances and responsibility,” said Seth of his experience. Smiling from behind the podium, he remarked, “Shakespeare once said that the world’s a stage. Fortunate to be given chances on the stage, I will act and will explore different roles while having fun doing it.”
Also joining us from the EXPLORE program was new IEA student, Jessica Huang, who admitted being unsure of what to expect from her experience. “When I first joined the program, I thought I would be filing papers and getting everyone coffee,” she recalls. “However, on my first day, I was greeted warmly at the door by my two Mentors, Emily and Erick. They even offered to get me coffee!” Jessica continued, “I learned that coworkers are not always just people I will share an office with. My coworkers could become my friends, my family, and above all, the people I care about.”
Veteran Academy students Liv Bjorgum and Nico Symons-Galassi echoed Jessica’s sentiments, reflecting on the mentorship and guidance that their teachers provided in addition to their instruction on advanced subjects. Describing the program as “a lifeline,” Nico reflected on how his seven years enrolled in IEA’s programs prepared him for a new high school and a new life experience. “This past spring, you couldn’t have talked me into going to a sleepaway camp for $100!” he exclaimed. “I have always been fearful about going to a sleepaway camp, but an IEA sleepaway camp, that’s different. It’s a BIG deal for me to be away from my family for a week, but I feel ready to fly to Michigan and be at Yunasa because I know I’ll have the support I need.”
While our annual Summer Spotlight event highlights the accomplishments of just a few of our incredible students, it is also an opportunity to reflect on IEA’s mission to advance public knowledge and understanding of gifted minds and their diverse intellectual, social, and emotional needs. As guests listened to our students discuss the life-changing impact that our programs have had for them and their families, all were encouraged to think beyond our small group to the thousands of children who have yet to experience these types of services – students who continue to languish in classrooms that are not equipped to enable and nurture their unique talents. With the help of the friends made at our Summer Spotlight event and the families who support IEA’s mission, these children’s voices will grow louder until they can no longer be ignored.
IEA would like to thank our friends at Urbano Mexican Kitchen for catering our event and Costco Wholesale for its generous donations. As always, our hearts are full of gratitude for our community of educators, mentors, staff, parents, alumni and students for their dedication to serving gifted youth and for making our programs possible. Thank you!
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Ellen Gruber obtained her B.A. in English and Spanish with a minor in Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Studies from Saint Joseph’s University. She has also studied the violin since her childhood and received her accreditation to teach the Suzuki method in 2009. Before her arrival at IEA, Ellen previously worked as a Development Assistant at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and was an apprentice to Dr. Ellen Frank at the Ellen Frank Illumination Arts Foundation (EFIAF). An avid learner and bookworm, she is thrilled to have found a home among the team at IEA that shares her passion for knowledge, discovery and creativity.