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Creating Opportunities for Gifted Students in Rural Communities

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Growing up gifted in rural parts of the U.S. can be a struggle. It can be tough to find challenging courses and the advising necessary to get planted firmly on a path to college.

Education Week sent a video team to Alaska to chronicle educators and community members who are trying to build solid pathways for their brightest students. We found intriguing work going on in the city of Nome, a town of about 3,500 people on the Norton Sound.

Our two videos offer a glimpse into what it's like to be a college-aspiring student in Nome. One follows Kastyn Lie, a senior at Nome-Beltz Junior/Senior High School. School leaders tell us how tough it is to assemble the resources they need to offer a rigorous course of study to students like Kastyn. There's no program for gifted students in the Nome school district.

"It's difficult to stand [up] a program for, let's say, four or five students out of a district of 700," Jamie Burgess, the director of federal programs and instruction for the Nome Public Schools, tells our video team.

"Our more pressing needs are children that are underperforming," Burgess says. "We try to do the best we can for our students, but our resources are limited. So I don't think we're always able to meet their needs."

But Nome educators have harnessed their grit and creativity to produce some new opportunities for students. Take a peek at the video to find out more.

In our second video, we profile a program that's helping gifted Alaska Native students find their way to college. Through this program, which is run by the Rural Alaska Honors Institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Kastyn takes an online calculus course, since no such class is offered at her high school.

The program also provides a residential summer program where Alaskan high school students can earn college credits and get a taste of college life.

See also: Gifted Students 'Make the Most' of School in Alaska 

Coverage of the experiences of low-income, high-achieving students is supported in part by a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, at www.jkcf.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

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