By Carole Rosner
Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s pioneering Yunasa summer camps – mentioned in this story – unite highly able children and experts in the social and emotional development of gifted children and provides an opportunity for campers to explore and grow the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social and physical aspects of their lives.
Past Yunasa Camper
Current Student at Northwestern University
“The ‘gifted’ label, for me, mattered less and less as I got older,” college freshman Tara Raizada said. “When I was younger, the identification pushed me to achieve more, but I ended up going to a middle school comprised solely of TAG [Talented and Gifted] students, where being ‘gifted’ was the norm, and I began to attribute less to the term than I had before, since that kind of child was so ubiquitous in my life. I hardly ever heard the word during high school, and I began to think even less about it. Yunasa became the only place I ever really pondered the term, and then I thought of it in a positive light. At the same time, I think it’s important to strike a balance with this label, because it can put children under a lot of pressure to achieve what they think ‘gifted’ kids need to achieve. Yunasa, I think, contributes a lot to balancing that fear out for many campers I’ve seen there, to realize that being ‘gifted’ is also a personality trait and an intellectual mindset, not just a measure of intelligence.”
“I always think of Yunasa as a place for growth, which I especially experienced during the leadership years as I was entering into young adulthood. I describe it as an experience of introspection, but also friendship, where you learn a lot about yourself and how to grow. I’m still in touch with many of my friends from Yunasa. A lot of the campers there are on the same wavelength intellectually and interest-wise as me.”
Tara spent six summers at Yunasa. She started as a camper and eventually moved into the camp’s leadership program. “I really enjoyed the time at Yunasa as a way to relax and be myself, but I was especially hooked during the leadership program years. The leadership program for Emerging Leaders and Counselors in Training is amazing. It’s like a semester of management courses within a week, and I really learned to love being a leader and to always strive to improve myself, cliché as that sounds,” Tara said.
Tara grew up in Portland and co-founded Portland Junior Scientists while a junior in high school. This student-run organization lets high schoolers teach science to elementary school students from underfunded, Title I schools in the Portland metro area. “In 2012, we won two grants – one from the Case Foundation and one from REI. The grant from REI included a trip to Bryce Canyon, in Utah, but we decided to use the money for materials from REI instead. The grants go towards materials for science experiments, camps, and programs—anything from laptop computers to cornstarch.”
Portland Junior Scientists also won the Case Foundation’s Fan Favorite grant of $10,000, and per the PJS website, they have set a goal to expand to five new Title I elementary school locations in the next few years.
I asked Tara why she chose Northwestern University for college. “When I made my college decision, I was sure what I wanted to major in – international studies, political science, and area studies – but I knew I wanted to explore other academic interests as well while at college. I chose Northwestern because it offers a whole host of departments and choices to pick from, and it’s on the quarter system rather than semesters, so there’s a large degree of freedom with the classes we can take. I also chose it because it has so many options for activities outside of the classroom, and I love being involved.”
Although Tara is a very busy college student, she still makes time to get together with friends, read (she just finished Mindy Kaling’s new book), watch TV (she’s obsessed with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), hike and travel.
As for her future, Tara said, “I’d love to travel for a living and learn about other cultures, so I want to work in the Foreign Service after I graduate. Hopefully all the parliamentary procedure from Model UN will finally pay off!”