Ten Years Later, G.A.T.E. Summer School Remains a Popular Program for Local Youth

by Kimberly Rios '13

On June 29, Azusa Pacific University opened its doors to young students from the Azusa community for its 10th annual G.A.T.E. (Gifted and Talented Education) Summer School program. Students from the 3rd—12th grade spend three weeks on campus taking classes taught by Azusa Pacific University professors and teachers from the Azusa Unified School District (AUSD).

Elementary school and middle school students took classes taught by AUSD teachers to help prepare them as they look ahead towards high school and, further down the road, college. High school participants had the opportunity to take courses to obtain college credit. Three APU professors, Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D., Scott Kinnes, Ph.D., and Adrien Lowery, Ph.D., taught courses in biology, English, and political science to G.A.T.E. students from Azusa and Gladstone High Schools.

The G.A.T.E. Summer School works to provide a place for local youth to spend summer engaging in enriched curriculum at a time when many programs are hurt by California budget cuts.

Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D., instructed this year’s political science class. “With so much political information bombarding our young people today, it can be easy to ‘tune out,’” she said. “However, it is critically important for our brightest high school students to become active members of their local, state, and national communities. In my Current Events course, these future leaders learn how to decipher today’s political headlines and critically explore issues that will likely affect them in the years to come.”

The program not only helps the Azusa community, but also benefits current APU students. This year, several teacher education students completed their clinical practice student teaching experience through G.A.T.E. Summer School. Jessica Cannaday, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education, shared, “We now have a Master of Arts in Education and certificate in Gifted and Talented Education, and this program provides a wonderful collaborative venue for the G.A.T.E. certificate candidates at APU to see and work with gifted children first hand.”

A decade ago, in 2001, APU first invited local gifted students from the AUSD to campus to partake in a new program they were establishing. Alice Watkins, Ph.D., former dean of APU’s School of Education and then assistant superintendent of AUSD implemented the program to encourage G.A.T.E. students to continue their education and experience a college environment firsthand. Now, 10 years later, the original participants in the program are college-aged, and a program that started with a total enrollment of only 60 students has grown to accommodate more than 250 students. It has become one of the most popular educational opportunities in Azusa for high achieving elementary and high school students.

By providing young students a chance to learn new information, APU is helping ensure that the next generation of leaders is fit to take control. “Sometimes it’s easy to become cynical about whether or not the next generation will be able to think deeply and act effectively and positively,” said Adrien Lowery, Ph.D, this year’s Freshman Writing Seminar professor. “After class discussions, in which we dissect and discuss our reading materials and to which we respond thoughtfully in writing, I can say that I find a great deal of hope in them and feel good about putting our futures in their hands.”