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New Program Provides Opportunity for Gifted Rural Youth

A new scholarship program launched this summer by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth will give bright, low-income rural students the chance to take part in a challenging summer program at sites across the country.

Rural Connections will give full scholarships during the next three years to more than 120 rural 7th-, 8th- and 9th-graders to attend three-week residential summer programs at one of 24 sites. Students also will receive supplemental academic and peer support after the program.

The initiative is being funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The center received an initial grant of $250,000 for the first year of a three-year commitment.

The Center for Talented Youth, a Baltimore-based group that works to identify and grow academic talent in K-12 students, hasn't specifically targeted rural, low-income students in the past.

"Although some rural students have participated in [the Center for Talented Youth's] Talent Search in the past, few of them actually enrolled in our summer programs," Maria Blackburn, communications specialist for the center, told the Rural Ed blog. "Cost, time, and distance from home were some of the reasons parents of rural students cited as the biggest barriers to their child's participation in CTY."

Center officials hope this new effort will positively affect students' academic achievement, motivation, and social development during the grant period and beyond.

Research has shown more needs to be done for gifted rural students. A 2005 study by the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, showed rural gifted students thought their academics were less challenging than those of their suburban or urban peers. The study also revealed rural students were less likely to be identified as gifted, to have access to a well-developed variety of programs, and to have classmates with similar intellectual interests.

The 42 students participating in Rural Connections this summer come from more than a dozen states and have many interests. One student plans to study mystery and suspense in literature and film, while another will delve into microbiology.

Qualifying students must come from families with less than $45,000 annually and test above their grade level. The program no longer is accepting applications for this summer.

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