Center for Talented Youth Time

Last night I went to an info session for Tomas for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Talent Search program. That sounds much more exciting than it actually is. Basically it boils down to this: 7th graders take the SAT and see how well they do. If they do well enough, then they qualify to take college classes or go to 3 week summer camps with other kids who did well on the SAT in seventh grade.

My brother Joel and I both did it when we were back in school. I went to CTY summer camp at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, PA for two years in a row. The first year I took Latin. The second year I took ancient Greek. I had a blast both times. It was so strange to be around so many extremely bright people. Not that my friends were dunces or anything, but I went from my school (where I felt extremely smart) to a place where I felt like one of the slower kids on campus. It was humbling and my first taste of the “big fish/little pond” phenomenon.

There were dances, outings to local stores or the mall, dorm food, talent shows, and more. And an awful lot of classes, of course. I basically took a semester of college Latin in 3 weeks, then the same for Ancient Greek. Can I remember much of either class now? Not really. I still know the whole Greek alphabet. And I think I remember how to sing Row Row Row Your Boat in Latin, so . . . win?

I still remember some things about those summer camps:

  • We had this card game we liked to play called Mau Mau. I don’t remember anything about it other than that we made up the rules as we went along. We thought it was great. (And it turns out it’s a real game.) We also played a lot of Egyptian Rat Screw, which I thought (until moments ago) had to be made up as well, but I guess I was wrong about that one too.
  • Food was great. They had a wok bar that I really liked where you could put anything you wanted into a wok and cook it up. There was also this guy who liked to have 6 glasses of milk with every meal. We were convinced he was going to die from protein poisoning.
  • There was a tradition at each dance where everyone poured out for the song American Pie. There were different moves to make and things to shout out at different parts of the song, and I still mentally do them whenever I hear the song on the radio.
  • Going to the mall was particularly awesome. Because if you had money, you could buy whatever you wanted. (Somehow, this feeling has not persisted with me . . .)

But the experience helped me in other ways.

First and foremost, it taught me not to be afraid of the SAT. I passed it in seventh grade, for crying out loud. So when it came time for me to take the SAT and ACT for real, I wasn’t scared at all. (I actually probably should have taken things a bit more seriously. I didn’t even study for the ACT. Not even enough to know what I could and couldn’t take with me to the test. I just assumed it would be exactly like the SAT. I remember getting the results back. I’d gotten a 34, and I was really disappointed at first, thinking it must have been out of like 100 or something. (Who makes a test be out of 36? I ask you.)) So that helped me prepare for the college application process.

And as I said, it also helped knock me down a few notches on the pride scale. (Though I’d still have a few more notches to go. But that’s probably still true today. Sigh.) Getting away from home for a few weeks and being on my own helped with me becoming more independent, and since it was on a college campus, I had some familiarity with that when I went off to college, as well.

So I’m really happy Tomas has a shot at this. That isn’t to say we’ll be able to afford it if he does well, but the option will be there, and that’s important.

Of course, when I did it way back when, my teacher had a whole regimen of training classes to help us be ready for the test. That doesn’t seem to be the case here where we live now. So after some online snooping, Khan Academy does free SAT prep. My plan is to work through some of that with Tomas and get him ready. A large part of succeeding on these tests is being familiar with the types of questions that are asked, how to pick them apart, and how to manage your time on the test effectively.

Anyway. We’ll see how he does. He should be taking it in January. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Leave a comment