launch the Universitys premier program that gives high school
seniors an early start on collegeIts the kind of story that
puts a lump in your throat. An exceptional student decides to leave
high school a year early and begin college at Iowa. He leaves behind
his Gordon, Neb., high schoolthe friends, the sports, the
magic that fills a senior year with memories.
A 12-hour trip
by car separates his new home from his old one, yet he makes the
trip three times during the first semester, once for homecoming,
once for Thanksgiving, and once for the funeral of a classmate killed
in a car accident.
Mom and his
three brothers are supportive of this first sibling to move so far
from home, but they miss him, too. He thinks about home especially
at laundry time and meal time, but also when theres friction
with a roommate or indecision about courses or majors.
Colman McCarthy, a NAASE kid.
McCarthy is one of ten students pioneering the National Academy
of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, the Universitys one-of-a-kind
program for outstanding students who want to begin their college
a high-powered group, and McCarthy is no exception. He was first
in his class and had ACT scores that were off the chart. The Universitys
prestigious Deans Scholarship and a UI Tuition Scholarship
are indicative of the kinds of honors McCarthy and his NAASE cohort
have earned as incoming freshmen. And like the others in NAASE,
theres more to McCarthy than high grades and test scores.
For him, intramurals, student government, and Honors Program activities
go hand in hand with calculus, anthropology, rhetoric, and a course
taken on a whim, Cuban-style dance.
McCarthy, at work or relaxing with friends, is no different
from other first-year students-and thats the way he
get terribly bored with my high school classes because Id
be done quickly," McCarthy says. "My high school is scarce
on extra academic opportunities. We dont have honors or Advanced
Placement courses, so I was with the rest of my class, having to
slow down and wait for them. I think my teachers were happy that
I had this opportunity and could move on and experience more.
at college differently from high school, where your goal is to get
good grades so that you can get into college. Here, Im more
concerned about what Im learning.
"I think its good to experiment, expanding my experience
in a number of fields before concentrating on just one. College
has changed my outlook a lot on that score."
That kind of
thinking led him to back out of a long-term decision to major in
physics; hes now considering psychology, anthropology, or
As varied a
group as the first class of NAASE students is, their common denominator
was that last spring each student reached a conclusion with their
parents and guidance counselors that the opportunity to get started
on college was worth the consequences of skipping that last year
of high school.
first semester was pretty hectic, and Ive gone over some rocky
bumps," McCarthy says. "Its been a hard transition,
but worth it."
His good sense
of humor shines as he jokes about the debates hes won and
lost in rhetoric class and his teams lousy win-loss record
in intramural football.
was nothing like rhetoric in high school," he says with a grin,
"and nothing like varsity high school football in college."
One month into
the fall semester, all ten students said NAASE was the right choice
for them. By semesters end, one had decided to return to high
school and another left Iowa to pursue her dream to compete as a
cyclist in the Olympics.
that he and his classmates are full-fledged University students,
not a sub-group of high school students taking special courses.
taking University courses just like anyone else. Thats made
my transition to freshman year so much easier. Im friends
with a lot of other freshmen and not singled out in this special
About the only
things that distinguish NAASE students from other first-year students
are that they meet regularly with a NAASE adviser, live on the honors
floors of Daum Hall, and agree not to pledge a fraternity or sorority
for their first year.
of these first NAASE students inform how the program will operate
for future classes, according to Nicholas Colangelo, director of
the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent
Development and head of NAASE.
year and for years to come our goal is to choose the types of students
who need this kind of experience at this time in their lives,"
Colangelo says. "Do they have commitment? Are they wanting
to continue their education? Will they benefit from a more demanding
but less structured environment?"
He knows there
are setbacks for any student adjusting to college.
normal circumstances, thats how freshman year goes: you burn
your shirts, your laundry shrinks, you have ups and downs. But because
these students are doing their freshman year out of sequence, some
of those things get magnified more than they would for traditional-age
Even in its
own first-year adjustment, NAASE finds firm support in the Belin-Blank
Center, according to associate director Susan Assouline.
[Colangelo] and the centers other founders, including Connie
Belin and Jacqueline Blank, had a phenomenal vision more than 20
years ago," Assouline says. "Weve become a center
committed to creating opportunities for students, parents, and teachers.
Through programs like NAASE weve expanded nationally and internationally
to meet the needs of gifted students, from kindergarten through
Center, established in 1988, was made possible by a $1 million endowment
from Myron and Jacqueline Blank of Des Moines. It honors the work
of Des Moines educator Connie Belin, who championed the cause of
gifted education as a teacher and member of a school board, the
Board of Regents, State of Iowa, and the Presidents Commission
on Presidential Scholars.
Last fall the
Blanks pledged $3 million in support of a learning complex to house
the University Honors Program along with the Belin-Blank Center
and its full complement of programs, including NAASE. The University
plans to construct the new building near Daum Residence Hall, which
houses honors students, to provide a convenient living/learning
center of activities for high-ability students of all ages.
space will give us the kind of room were going to need as
we expand physically and conceptually," Colangelo says. "Were
going to have a chance to form a model thats not out there
presentlyfrom kindergarten through undergraduate years, supporting
the long-term development of the academic and artistic talent of
Blank once said that the Belin-Blank founders tossed a small pebble
that has created a big wave," Assouline says.
gratifying to be part of that effect."
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