Kalee Hall of Pilot Mountain apparently taught herself sign language from a poster hanging in her pre-school class. When classmates were memorizing their home addresses, Kalee memorized them, too — pretty much all of them, her mother said.
With this anecdotal evidence piling up, Kalee’s parents had her IQ tested. She hit the 99th percentile on the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, putting her above Mensa’s entrance requirement.
“We’re awaiting her membership card right now,” her mother, Karen Hall, said this week.
Kalee’s membership in the 65-year-old social club is not unheard of, but neither is it common. Mensa doesn’t test potential members until they’re at least 14, but parents can send in test results on their own, said American Mensa spokeswoman Victoria Liguez, who confirmed Kalee’s membership.
The international group’s youngest member on record was a 2-year-old British boy, but of Mensa’s 57,000 U.S. members, about 2,600 are under 18.
The Triad area has about 170 Mensa members, including 40 in Winston-Salem, former group secretary Ellen Muratori said. Over the years this local group, which meets for luncheons and game nights, has had about 15 members under 17, Muratori said.
Kalee entered kindergarten early, and now she’s a second-grader in the Surry County schools, her mother said. She’s been a cheerleader and part of a local dance group. She won a beauty pageant this year and “is happy just being a kid,” Hall said.
But she knows she’s a little bit different.
“She has her own science journal,” Hall said. “She knows that there are no other kids in her class that, just for the fun of it, have their own science journal.”
There also aren’t many second-graders anywhere testing at an eighth-grade level on online math tests. Or who learn algebra on a Pizza Hut napkin.
“For some reason, she just up and said, ‘I want to learn algebra,’ ” Hall said. “The waitress kept coming back and shaking her head.”
Intelligence quotient — or IQ — isn’t about knowledge, local Mensa secretary Tim Joseph said. It’s about “how fast you can think, and how fast you can make connections.” Typical IQ tests show this, asking test takers to complete number sequences or rearrange letters to discover an anagram, which is a word that can be made from all the letters of another word.
Kalee’s mom wouldn’t give out her daughter’s IQ, but the 99th percentile would place her over 140 — the general threshold for genius. Mensa members need an IQ of at least 132, high enough to put them in the top 2 percent of the world.
With Earth’s population recently crossing 7 billion, that’s 140 million people. Not all of them join Mensa, which has “more than 100,000 members worldwide,” according to its website.
The local Mensa group doesn’t generally offer youth activities, but the national umbrella has education packets online and gives out college scholarships. Membership “could be a leg up” for Kalee as she gets older, Hall said.
Kalee said she particularly likes math and science. Her current plans include growing up to be a doctor or a scientist.
“The reason why I want to be a doctor is I could, like, help people if they’re sick,” she said. “And the reason why I want to be a scientist is I could, like, find a cure for diabetes and stuff like that.”
Kalee has an older sister who excels in English and has written a children’s book, her mother said. She has a younger sister who will probably be “the athlete of the family.”
“I personally think it’s all about finding what interests your child and then making those opportunities available to them,” Hall said.
“I think that God gives every child a gift,” she said. “Sometimes we just have to search a little harder to find out with it is. And we were just very blessed with Kalee to find out what that is early.”