MASA Feature Oak Park’s Gifted and Talented Honors Program Inspires Entire Community Every student travels a unique path through his or her educational experience, with many factors contributing to successes as well as failures along the journey. FDR once said, “We can’t always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” With this in mind, the Oak Park School District has been supporting and growing its Gifted and Talented Honors (GATH) program to help students unleash their full potential and move the district to a schoolwide ethic of high expectations. GATH program participants are a cohort of students provided with an advanced series of academic experiences resting on three core principles: 1. Scholarship (formal academic learning, training, and achievement); 2. Leadership (ability to guide, direct or positively influence others through action); and 3. Citizenship (social conduct that is mature and upholds the responsibilities that come with being an active member of an academic community). These three principles help cultivate the Oak Park School District, where a climate of academic excellence has an opportunity to flourish. “For an urban education environment like the Oak Park School District, where students experience high poverty, opportunities to participate in programs 22 MASA LEADER • Spring 2016 like GATH are rare but invaluable,” said Dr. Daveda Colbert, Oak Park School District Superintendent. “GATH provides a unique setting with an extraordinary support system that helps our students reach the next level. The exposure that they receive, as well as wraparound supports that lead to increased student achievement, helps create a direct pathway to success after high school graduation. GATH ensures students are career- and college-ready when they leave the Oak Park School District.” Dr. Colbert describes the GATH program as a collaborative effort with school administrators, teachers, school staff, students, and parents—as well as the community’s business professionals— all in a concerted effort to unleash each student’s full potential. “GATH is a unique opportunity that helps students reach their next level,” said Dr. Colbert. “With supports, they become well-rounded students. We have put identified structures in place around these student cohorts to improve their skills. And every year this program grows stronger, and more students become a part of it. Now, our GATH students stand out positively, like our student athletes do.” Administrators and teachers are holding high expectations for students as well, understanding that earning trust and respect will inspire achievement. Oak Park High School junior Dana reflects this when she describes how her GATH classes are “rigorous” and they “push you to work harder because they (the teachers) believe that you have the ability.” By Mitch Smith GATH students at the ‘Portfolio of Scholars’ undergo real-world interviews with community members.
MASA Leader - Sprin 2016
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