By Elena Olson King
Each fall in college towns across the country, the population suddenly swells. After a quiet summer, these cities grow with bright, young college students seeking higher education and degrees carrying the promise of a fulfilling careers. For many of these students, they may not have felt challenged in high school. College provides them with an opportunity to focus on their talents, taking advanced courses in a specific field of study.
Each summer for the past 40 years, Educational Service Unit 11 has given gifted high school students the chance to get a sneak peek of that same experience.
“We had a great year,” Janelle Jack, Gifted Education Coordinator explains. One hundred and twenty-nine students participated in this year’s Summer Honors Program from each of the 13 schools in the ESU 11 service area. Thirty-two families in Holdrege opened their homes and housed 87 of the students. “People house the instructors as well,” Janelle continues.
Students who have completed grades 8 – 12 are eligible and must be nominated by their teachers for the program. Nominated students must complete an online exam and/or submit a portfolio and resume. The finalists are selected on the basis of performance on an exam or work samples.
Current Summer Honors Classes include Art, Computer Science, Creative Writing, Drama, Science, Film, Logic, Math, Medical Science, and Social Science. For the first time, Agriculture was also available and students received college credit through Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. The college housed the students in the dorms for two nights at no charge.
Instructors for the classes come from across the country, with some traveling from California and Virginia. One instructor, Doug Walters, has been an instructor every year since the program began. “He was a late substitute for Social Science the first year,” Janelle adds.
While the facilitating the Summer Honors Program is possibly the most publicized function of the ESU, students and teachers benefit from the services they provide in many other ways year-round. “Our tech guys are in schools every week,” Administrator Greg Barnes begins, “The largest service we provide are special services like special education, speech therapists, and psychologists, for example.” Instead of each school hiring these specialized staff, they may be shared among districts, saving valuable tax dollars. The schools may also purchase larger units of supplies, equipment, and furniture together at a lower cost.
Throughout the year, the ESU provides area faculty with professional development opportunities, bringing in education experts from across the country. The area-wide ESU 11 Fall Conference will be on October 2 at Holdrege High School and the Tassel. The day will begin with motivational keynote speaker Dave Weber. Teachers will also have the opportunity to select three breakout sessions including technology integration, special education, classroom management, media, art, music, reading, math, science, social studies, and career education.
ESU 11 is located at 412 W. 14th Ave. For more information on the services provided by ESU 11 call 308-995-6585 or visit the ESU 11 website.