This essay was a first place winner in the Maryland Coalition for Gifted and Talented Education’s (MCGATE) Student Essay Contest.
Megha Sharma is a freshman at Long Reach High School. She takes part in several school clubs and organizations such as MESA, Science Olympiad, SGA, and Model UN, and plays soccer and tennis for the school team.
From personal experience, I can say that there are three types of gifted children: we have the natural geniuses and protégés, those who are gifted at rare specialties, and the ones who work incredibly hard to be considered gifted and talented. I fall into the latter category and some could consider that fortunate or the opposite. However, I view the hard work as a characteristic attributed to gifted and talented students. Everyone is in a class together and by being different, we can all learn from each other. I realize that I have opportunities in my school system to choose where I want my life to go. I would not have had these prospects growing up anywhere else. So, “What have gifted education opportunities meant to me?” They represent a pathway for me to find who I want to be.
My experience in gifted and talented programs starts from my third grade year. I was in Curriculum Extension Units and the G/T Math program through elementary school. Because of young age, we weren’t pushed in academic rigor, but these programs helped me develop confidence in myself and teamwork skills. Before being a leader, it is important to learn to be part of a team. I took the skill sets I developed to middle school, which was an exciting change because it was the first time where G/T was offered in all of the core classes. I saw a change in myself, as the expectations increased as well as academic rigor. At my middle school, we had a plethora of G/T seminars to help students pursue their interests and develop talents. I got involved in the Debate seminar during my sixth grade year, the competitive Debate team in seventh grade, and during my eighth grade year, I used what I had learned and became the Debate team captain. Participating in debate opened up many avenues for public speaking and I acquired many skills that made debate my passion. Now, as a freshman in high school, I am involved in my school’s Speech and Debate Team and Model UN. Through the G/T core classes in middle school, I realized that my true passion is science. Learning it is enjoyable for me. Last year, I had the opportunity to compete at both the county and regional science fairs where I was fortunate to win first place with my experiment that I had dedicated a lot of time to. From the regional science fair, I was nominated to participate in the national Broadcom Masters Fair, where I placed as a semi-finalist. Because of the G/T science classes I took and the wonderful educators, I was able to do a project that I was passionate about and learn many things that I could use in the future. To expand my horizons in the STEM field, I am competing in the MESA IEEE Robotic challenge and Science Olympiad. This year, I am taking G/T Independent Research, which is a rigorous college-like course in which in-depth research is conducted on a topic of choice. I made this decision because of my exposure to the G/T Research class offered in middle school, and I chose a topic that I could conduct quasi-experimental research on, which incorporates different aspects of science and psychology. These are just a few examples in the ways G/T programs have helped me develop valuable life skills and allowed me a chance to build on still-born talents and discover new interests.
I am futuristic, but not unrealistic in setting goals, so I completely understand that numerous obstacles can come in the way. But, these can always be overcome with sheer motivation and determination. For high school, I want to continue taking G/T and AP courses that will push me with their rigorous curriculum. Though these courses are challenging and at times, time-consuming, I feel most academically stimulated to prepare me for college and career. Another goal of mine is to participate in the international INTEL science fair. As a Girl Scout, I would like to earn my Gold Award by creating an organization that will help provide education for underprivileged children that do not have the same opportunities as children in Maryland do with gifted and talented options. Though I know a lot can change with time, a long term goal is to become a neurosurgeon. Gifted and talented courses are a foundation to me achieving these goals.
One teacher in particular made a lasting impact on my life. Even though she is no longer my teacher, I will carry the lessons she taught me and the things I learned from her forever. Ms. Charla Phillips is the G/T resource teacher at my middle school, and I was fortunate to have her guidance for three years. I realized that Ms. Phillips let us use our own creativity and imagination and allowed us freedom to do what we wanted with our project, which I was not accustomed to in my other classes. Ms. Phillips also was in charge of the Debate program, which has really sparked my passion for public speaking. On top of running all of the G/T seminars single-handedly, she also was involved in other extensions such as Writer’s Guild, Leadership Outlook, and other county events. I was fortunate to be a part of these as well. In eighth grade, our G/T History class participated in the National History Day competition. I did an individual performance and made it to the National Finals level. Though it is categorized as individual, I felt like I was part of a team. I would not have been able to do this without Ms. Phillip’s advice and support.
The gifted and talented curriculum and expectations motivate me to do my best and to keep learning. Without gifted and talented programs, I think I would be lost in the directions of where I want to go. Because these programs provide so much exposure, I am able to identify my passions and interests. If these programs were not available to me, I would have difficulty finding activities that would keep me challenged. Gifted and talented courses are a vessel for opportunity and academic excellence. I cannot express my gratitude for having access to these opportunities, and for the brave educators that are willing to work hard so students can learn and achieve so much more.