Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Helping parents of Black gifted children navigate the maze: The lifelong commitment of mentoring

This week's guest blogger is Tiombe-bisa Kendrick, Member of the NAGC's Diversity & Equity Committee.  Tiombe is also on the Board of Directors of SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). She works as a school psychologist who works in a district that serves many students from challenging life situations. She tells a touching story here of one young man she met, prior to his birth.

While talking with a profoundly gifted black male recently, I inquired about his future career goals. I have been acquainted with this child since his mother gave birth to him as a teenager eleven short years ago. Although this young man was born into what many would be quick to label as adverse circumstances, it seems this child was destined to excel. Prior to his birth,  his mother attended a local school designated for students who were parents. As it would turn out, his mother’s enrollment in this school was probably one of the best things she could do for his early childhood development. As a participant in the program, she was required to enroll this young man in the school’s early childhood development center which was housed on the same campus as her school. He attended this program from infancy to age three. During those three years, I believe he was exposed to language stimulation, cognitive stimulation, and activities that were critical for the development of young children.

This school also provided the mother with services such as parenting skills, supervised bonding during the school day, nutrition counseling, and medical services.   As a young preschool age child, I could remember being shocked about his ability to correctly pronounce the scientific names of dinosaurs. In the primary grades, teachers actually considered referring him to special education due to some mild behavior challenges. Looking back now, I believe these minor behavior challenges were most likely manifestations of his boredom in the classroom. I also remember some years ago I was in a local book store with this child and his mother. I found it fascinating that he seated himself with a book in the children’s section of the book store and began reading. I was shocked because neither his mother or I realized he could read. I realized at this moment, I would have to remain in this child’s life forever, if it meant his entire lifetime.

Fast forward eleven years. This child is now a rising sixth grade student. I strongly believe career planning should occur prior to enrolling in high school. I also feel very deeply that early career planning is critical for the lives of gifted students from low socioeconomic and culturally diverse backgrounds. He informed me that he loves nature and wants to become a scientist that involves dealing with nature. His revelations regarding his career goals and areas of passion engrossed me into deep thought. I began to ponder about the barriers and challenges this student would surely encounter on his educational journey.

As a school psychologist, I also recognized that he was also approaching adolescence which has many challenges of its own and would benefit from attendance at a middle school that could meet his myriad of needs including those related to his intellectual abilities. Soon thereafter, his mother called to consult me about a school she was considering enrolling him in for the upcoming school year. I was very familiar with the single gender school which has a small student-teacher ratio and a reputation for academic rigor and educational excellence. Silently I thought to myself, God is looking out for this young man as this really is the type of school he needed at this exact point in his development. I will be in attendance with  him and his mother at his upcoming school orientation. As a result of this experience, I have  learned that mentoring another person is a life commitment. I now must prepare this student and mother for the grueling and competitive worlds of middle school, high school, and college.

I will begin to educate this mother and student about national talent searches, national math and science young scholars programs, and get them familiar with terms such as AP classes, dual enrollment classes, and acceleration. Everyday I am so grateful that I am able to assist parents of gifted Black children navigate what often seems like a continuously confusing maze called ‘an equitable and excellent education’.

By :
Tiombe-Bisa Kendrick, S.S.P., NCSP
Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Join Tiombe & I at the SENG Annual convention next month in Milwaukee:


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