Opening the G.A.T.E. for the Gifted

by Nicole Chin '08

Early morning in mid-July, when the weather’s still warm and the sun has yet to shine over West Campus, little footsteps can be heard through Darling Hall. With backpacks full of pens and paper, fifth graders arrive to learn about the anatomy of the human body while middle school students create characters out of clay and other miscellaneous materials. A group of high school students heads to East Campus for lectures on science and literature. No one slacks off here; everyone attentively listens, eagerly raising hands to ask questions.

In its fourth year, the Gifted and Talented Education (G.A.T.E.) summer school program challenges the education of 264 enrolled Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) students. With classes in geometry, geography, and visual arts, third through eighth grade students are advancing their education in language arts, mathematics, and science studies. High school participants have the opportunity to study college entry level science, English, or psychology taught by APU professors in a four-week intensive course to receive three college transferable credits.

Sponsored by APU and AUSD, the annual G.A.T.E. summer school program gives many students their first chance to be on a university campus. Carren Acevedo, director of the AUSD G.A.T.E. program, believes that it is especially significant for gifted high school students looking for additional academic challenges.

“For students who are ahead of their peers either academically or socially, we need to make sure that we provide for those needs by helping to stretch them so they’re not bored and do not drop out,” said Acevedo. “We’re trying to make sure that we constantly challenge their needs.”

The program has opened the door for many graduates who are now college-bound. Acevedo shared a story of a past participant who now attends the University of California, San Diego, but before the G.A.T.E. program, had no intention of attending college because of her own family’s beliefs. “Even when we’re reaching out to the kids, we’re also trying to educate the parents and let them know this is attainable. It’s what your kids need to do,” she said. “Here is a student who really truly thought, ‘I’m never going to college,’ and now look at her.”