“Giving is not just about making a donation; it is about making a difference.” This quote is attributed to Kathy Calvin CEO and President of the United Nations Foundation, and reflects the values of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted. As a volunteer board, we are committed to donating our time and talent to improve educational and social emotional services for gifted and talented students in our state.
Many times our “donations” benefit one child, or one family, one educator or administrator, one school counselor or school psychologist. Sometimes our organization benefits many with our various services.
Each month board volunteers answer inquiries from parents, educators, and sometimes even students. We answer questions, share resources, and coach. Questions from parents often center around gifted identification and testing, or working with individual school districts or teachers. Parents often ask for names of professionals who are experts in the social and emotional needs of gifted students - psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors. They ask about summer camps and year-round educational opportunities. They ask for resources to stimulate and challenge their children. They ask about behaviors…and they are often searching for community, a place to speak with other parents who have “walked the walk.” We do our best to provide suggestions, guidance, and reassurance, and we hope that we make a difference.
Educators also often ask for resources, or for suggestions on how to best meet the needs of gifted students in their regular classrooms. So few teachers have any specialized training in gifted education, and they are yearning to do their best for all of their students. They ask for help working with parents, with administrators, and with their school boards. They ask how they can work with us to press for more funding for gifted and talented education at the state level. They take advantage of our conferences, webinars, podcasts, Townhalls, and the other outreach activities we provide.They are committed, and are seeking answers. Again, we do our best to provide answers, guidance, and connections to others on the same journey, and hope that we make a difference.
Finally, there are the students. Sometimes we get inquiries from children and young adults about giftedness. They want to know what it is, how they can find challenging learning environments, or how they can advocate for themselves. They worry about friendships, and they hope to find others like themselves and share activities with like-minded kids. Every year, WATG invites students to apply for scholarships to camps, lessons, and extended learning activities, and every year we provide scholarships to deserving students. This year a total of twenty-one students applied for a variety of scholarships, and we were delighted to award scholarships to 12 of them. As a result, students will be aided as they pursue opportunities in coding, music, art, math, science, languages, writing, artificial intelligence, engineering, SOAR camp, and minecraft. Reading their applications and glowing letters of recommendation, viewing their videos and slideshows, and hearing their voices shine through was a remarkable experience for board members who served as the scholarships task force. We hope that our donation of funds will make a difference for these students. We wish we had even more funds available for more students. The need is there, and the talent is great!
At the close of their term of service on the WATG Board, every board volunteer is presented with a glass starfish. Perhaps you have heard the original starfish story, written by Loren Eisley. It goes like this:
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
As a board, individually and collectively, we hope to make a difference. Ours are donations of time (thousands of hours each year) and talent, and sometimes money; we hope those are making a difference in the lives of gifted and talented children, their families, and their educators.
WATG extends a huge thank you to Dr. German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our families and educators who speak Spanish. The translation can also be found on our website.