identifies, challenges gifted and talented students
who might fall through cracks
Holly Yettick, News Staff Writer
Elementary, Mali Garrett-Mills is a curiosity, a kindergartner
who reads and writes with the first-graders while her classmates
are still learning how to stand in line.
a cheerful classroom at the HOPE Center, Mali is the norm.
4-year-old classmate reads words such as rainbow, elephant
and giraffe from flashcards, Mali, 5, distinguishes the wasabi
from the nori in a plastic sushi play set.
to be children like Mali fell through the cracks in this high-poverty
area of northeast Denver.
years ago, a transformation took place in this sprawling center
rebuilt from the graffiti-scrawled hull of an abandoned grocery
HOPE Center nonprofit opened a gifted and talented program
aimed at inner-city children in preschool and primary grades.
a little advertising and a lot of word-of-mouth, the program
has screened 200 to 300 children whose families, neighbors
and day-care providers believed they might have superior IQs.
Seventy-five -- most with IQs of 120 and above --
have since been identified and served with enrichment programs
that parents pay for on a sliding scale.
many ways this is why the program was started -- to show the
world that inner-city kids are gifted, too," said HOPE
Center program coordinator Rebecca Bohannan.
the inspiration for the program was a book that implied such
children were, for the most part, not gifted.
Herrnstein and Charles Murray's 1994 work The Bell Curve suggested
some ethnic groups had lower intelligence levels than others.
a hard book for HOPE Center Director George Brantley, who
is black, to read.
was also a wake-up call. He knew too many Anglos to believe
they were actually smarter than people of other ethnic groups.
thought we could change our bell curve," he said.
a revolutionary idea for a nonprofit that had spent much of
the past three decades focusing on the bell curve's opposite
end: mentally challenged children and adults.
opinion, that was one of the very problems the inner city
schools and social service agencies, including HOPE, tended
to be geared toward finding and serving kids for whom learning
for whom learning was easy got lost in the noise.
didn't mean they disappeared.
an individual's talents and abilities are not utilized and
directed, they can very easily move in an anti-social direction
and be utilized against society," Brantley said.
children who go unidentified and unchallenged tend to be defiant,
or to shut down, or to pretend they don't know the answer
even when they do.
you don't identify these guys, they seldom live up to their
potential," he said. "When they're in an atmosphere
where it's OK to be smart and show their intelligence, they'll
has already learned that.
Elementary, the nearest DPS school for gifted and talented
children, doesn't have a kindergarten.
attends Stedman, a northeast Denver school the state rated
"low" this year based on Colorado Student Assessment
her kindergarten classmates find out she can already read,
"all they do is look and stare," she says. The whole
thing makes her "kind of embarrassed."
Grimes knows, too.
are limited for inner-city kids in Denver. After completing
HOPE's preschool program, Grimes' son, Kiko, now 8, enrolled
in the Wyatt Edison Charter School in northwest Denver. Grimes
said the school promised to challenge her son, who was tested
and identified as gifted after he attended a regular preschool
program at HOPE. But that never happened.
started talking and doing what he was not supposed to do,"
his mother said.
Crofton opened last year, Grimes placed her son there. There,
he works hard and dreams of being a principal, a football
player or the country's first black president.
plans to open a kindergarten next year.
biggest dream is to expand the HOPE Center into an entire
preschool through eighth grade school for the gifted.
a proud father, he presents an architectural rendering of
tried to get HOPE Academy into the Stapleton master plan,"
tag? $30 million.
overdreamed," he admitted.
he can't help but wonder about the kids who miss out on HOPE.
The ones who slip through the cracks.
gifted education needs a movement similar to the one that
won strict federal laws governing the education of disabled
children. That way, he believes, all gifted kids could be
identified and served, not just the ones who can afford a
private school for the gifted, or who attend a school where
testing for giftedness is
as common as testing for reading disabilities.
we're successful, we could not serve all the children out
there ready to be served," he said. "There could
be 10 of our agencies -- 20 -- if indeed we develop the tools
and capacities to serve them."