According to the National Association for Gifted Children, those in low socioeconomic groups remain largely underserved in gifted and talented (G/T) programs. Yet gifted and talented students span all cultures and socioeconomic groups.
In Springfield, a new Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation’s (OACAC) program called Gifted Objectives Accelerating Learning (GOAL) addresses the educational disparities among low-income youth who are gifted or have high potential. It launched during the 2018-2019 school year.
Through collaboration with community partners, GOAL works to identify high potential students and then offer them mentorship and enrichment activities.
“The other day in class, my son was asked to list people that he feels support him. There were only three on his list: Mom, Dad and his mentor, Matt,” said Rene, whose son John participates in GOAL. “This program has given him confidence. He loves the days he can hang out with his mentor. I love to see him sharing information with his mentor that he would never share with me. Their relationship is very special!”
OACAC and GOAL partners developed training highlighting the intersections of poverty, behavior, and giftedness, which is provided to parents, schools and youth service providers. Once identified, GOAL participants are connected with volunteer education champion mentors. Together, they build relationships and increase support to work toward educational success.
Throughout the school year, enrichment activities give participants opportunities to increase their real-world knowledge in a fun environment. While kids and mentors are participating in activities, parents are given information on how to best support their child’s educational success.
Rene learned about GOAL through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield. She was interested because the project pairs gifted students with mentors who are also gifted, and she saw great potential benefit for her son. Rene says John and Matt spend one-on-one time together doing a variety of things, from playing board games and talking, to academics and more.
“Matt understands and spends time with John because he’s special. He is patient and caring,” said Rene.
In addition to the GOAL project, OACAC offers the Foster Grandparent Program, Head Start/Early Head Start, Neighborhood Centers, Housing Assistance Program, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and Weatherization Assistance Program. All share the common mission of alleviating the causes and conditions of poverty across Southwest Missouri and helping people achieve self-sufficiency.
To learn more about GOAL or any other OACAC programs, visit oac.ac.
The Community Health Advocates (CHAs) at the Springfield-Greene County Health Department serve as resource specialists who bridge gaps and reduce barriers to better health for those in the Springfield area. They help their clients by referring them to community resources such as the one described in the article above. To reach a CHA, please visit springfieldmo.gov/CHAreferral or call 417-893-9609.