Guest Author - Lorel Shea
The Davidson Young Scholars Program is like a dream come true for profoundly gifted children and their parents. The application process may appear daunting, but it is well worth the time and effort, and even the cost of private testing. I can say this with confidence, as my family has been involved with the DYS program since early in 2003. Jan and Bob Davidson founded the Davidson Young Scholars in 1999, with just a handful of profoundly gifted kids. Today, there are over 1,300 active in the young scholars program.
Who is the young scholars program designed to serve? The program accepts kids aged five to 16, who are either citizens of the US or permanent residents of the US, and also meet qualification criteria with IQ and achievement scores in the 99.9th percentile. The organization has very specific lists of accepted tests and scores, and minimum scores are published on their website. Different tests yield different results, so there is no single “magic number” for entry. The Stanford- Binet V and WISC IV thresholds are 145+, while the WPPSI requirement is 150+. Davidson is looking for the top rank of gifted kids, as they are the least likely to be challenged and have their educational needs met in a typical academic situation.
Detailed developmental milestones used to be a required part of the application, but this section is now optional. Every applicant needs at least one recommendation form completed by someone other than a family member. This actually can be difficult for some families, as their kids may be too young to have a track record at school, they may be homeschooled (many profoundly gifted kids are home educated) , or they may not show their true colors to the world at large. I've come out of the closet about my children's abilities over the years, but before Davidson and my newfound life as a gifted advocate, I kept things pretty quiet, lest I be seen as a braggart (a cardinal sin according to my Catholic mother) or a liar. I've since learned to gently present information as it comes up in conversation, and to state the truth nonchalantly and let people react as they want. A nice benefit is that my relationships with friends have grown deeper as a result of this sharing. I used to listen to their mom tales and feel sad that I did not feel comfortable enough to share my own moments of wonder and joy. It's good to let people really get to know you and your children.
So what exactly does the program do for kids once they are admitted? They have a variety of services, almost all of which are free. The one exception is the annual summit, a mega gathering of DYS and their families held every summer. All of the extensive programming at the summit is free, but transportation, lodging and food are not. Some families may qualify for financial aid to help defray these costs, as Davidson encourages all YS families to attend. Each YS is assigned a Family Consultant, who gets to know the child and can offer support and suggestions, and advocate for accommodations at school. The online community and private website allow both parents and young scholars to interact with peers through bulletin boards and listserves. There are also special guest lecturers who facilitate discussions through online seminars for parents and colloquia for young scholars. These experts include many of the biggest names in gifted education, including Miraca Gross, Edward Amend, Susan Assouline, Deborah Ruf, and James Webb, among others. Families may apply for financial aid after six months of membership, and may qualify for need based aid to offset tuition for academic camps, for early college classes, for homeschooling materials, or afterschool enrichment.
I asked my kids what was the best thing about the Davidson Young Scholars. My YS alumni (all kids age out as they turn 18) is most grateful for the tuition assistance he received that helped pay for community college classes. My eleven year old son said that he, “likes the way that he can be with kids who understand him and don't call him a geek” at the annual summit. This son is not a loner. He's actually quite gregarious and has a very active social life, but he still gets the geek comments here and there, and is very sensitive to them. My daughter who is eight said, “I like the way that we can travel to different parts of the country we might not see otherwise, and that we get to meet nice people”. This again, is a reference to the summit, which is held in various cities throughout the US. It's amazing to see how quickly these kids bond with one another, and how much it means to them to know that they are not alone.
When I try to put a price on what all of this is worth, I just can't. Caring private consultants, access to renowned experts, a gifted community for parents and children... there's just no way to quantify what that's been worth for my family. Thank you, Jan and Bob Davidson, from the bottom of my heart.