Duke Talent Identification Program identifies academically talented children

It’s not the kind of scene you’d expect from teenagers.

There are about a dozen of them, enthusiastically talking about archaeology and anthropology -- in the middle of the summer.

Just as America’s colleges and universities scan the landscape for the most talented football and basketball players, they just as diligently (though, admittedly in a less high-profile way) scan the nation for its most academically gifted.

Since 1980, Duke University has been bringing those students under its wing with its “Duke Talent Identification Program.” It takes students from fourth grade through high school. Some summer sessions are online, others -- like the one at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem -- are done on 22 campuses across the southeast.

Those three-week sessions work with about 6,500 students each summer.

“My sister came here last year and she was like, 'Oh, it's so fun, I made so many friends!'” said Eunice Chen, who was at the Wake Forest summer session.

These sessions are a glimpse into what their academic life might be in college, being surrounded by other students who are as bright and motivated as they are.

“They are getting the opportunity to see what it will be like once they get to that level,” said LaShanta Rice, who is the on-site director of the Duke TIP program at Wake Forest University. “And I know at 18, if I had had that chance, I would have jumped at it.”

Every student puts his or her cellphone in a basket before class begins. And there is quite a variety from the traditional, like that archeology and anthropology one, and stuff that is a little more exotic, like cryptology, where we found Lior Weber, who is a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Atlanta.

“I especially like subjects where there's one, right answer and I like more objective subjects,” Lior said. “I'm interested in biomedical engineering, so I might look into that a little bit. Maybe go to a school like Georgia Tech or MIT.”

Ella Peddy is from Asheville and says she wants to go to Vanderbilt. She, too, thinks this is a very college-like atmosphere.

“The instructors are amazing - I wish they were my teachers at home because they make it so fun,” Ella said.

All designed by the experts who know just how these kids feel.

“I was one of those students who was, in the summertime, reading books,” Rice said.

It seems to work. About 100,000 students join the program each year and among its 3,000,000 alumni and alumnae is Anu Kirk, the director of virtual reality for PlayStation … and a couple of others your kids will likely recognize. See who they are in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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