Local gifted students have raised $12,000 of the $40,000 needed for a trip to Washington, D.C. in the spring.
Half of the money came directly from fund-raising efforts, and parents have matched the other half. Forty gifted middle school students will make the five-day trip to our nation’s capital, exploring museums such as the National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence. Students will participate in a Great American Race, a sort of scavenger hunt in which they look for specific items from memorials and museums.
Nearly 16 percent of the middle school’s 700 students have tested as gifted, which Rim Country Middle School technology and gifted teacher Marlene Armstrong said runs slightly higher than the 10 to 15 percent national average.
This year, the state eliminated gifted funding, and Armstrong, along with local parents and other teachers, formed the Payson Area Association for the Gifted and Talented to ensure students still received targeted education.
“It is my belief that every child deserves to learn at their unique ability level,” said Armstrong. “Whether they are learning disabled, or whether they are profoundly gifted, they deserve to come to school and learn something new every day.”
The gifted advocacy group formed last spring. “We’ve been going like gangbusters ever since,” said Armstrong.
The group enjoys a mailing list of 50 people and a seven-member board.
Fund-raisers, including the recent gifted symposium that brought nationally recognized speakers to Payson, will fund scholarships for teachers to earn gifted endorsements.
Gifted students need specialized education because they learn differently from other students, said Armstrong. “Teachers have to be trained.”
Money will also pay stipends to teachers who work as gifted coordinators, who test students to see if they qualify as gifted, among other tasks.
A grant writer with the group successfully procured $5,000 for teachers to earn gifted endorsements, and the writer is now working on scoring money to buy new technology like laptops, smart boards, graphing calculators, or any other gadget that would expand the lessons offered to students.
Children have headed fund-raising efforts, said Armstrong. Students even attended the gifted symposium, helping out where needed.
“The kids are doing all of the work. The parents are there to support them,” said Armstrong. “That is part of the process. They have to give back to the community. The community is giving to them, so they have to give to the community.”
Fund-raisers included a Krispy Kreme sale — raised $1,200 — a rummage sale, spaghetti dinner and two car washes.
Upcoming money-raisers include a holiday portrait studio, rummage sale and green chili burro sale. On Friday, Oct. 29, organizers will hold a slate of fund-raisers they hope will generate $7,000. Besides the holiday portrait studio, students have organized a dance and they will participate in an all-night History-A-Thon running from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
For the History-A-Thon, students are seeking sponsors as they stay up all night playing games like history twister and Trivial Pursuit with questions tied to the state’s academic standards.
Ambitious students decided they wanted to pack multiple fund-raisers in one evening, and parents will supervise in shifts.
Future events include an “Are You Smarter Than an Eighth-Grader” evening in which adults face students in a spin-off of the game show.
“I guarantee you our students are smarter than us adults,” said Armstrong. “We have some pretty bright cookies.”