Building HEROES: School for the Gifted

When my little brother was eleven years old, he started college at Rutgers University.  He was — and continues to be — my inspiration for HEROES.  We started HEROES to find other kids like him — other gifted kids in need of social, emotional, and academic support — and to provide gifted children with an option to study advanced topics with children of similar ages in an environment designed to nurture their gifts and preserve their childhood.

 

I find that many people believe that gifted children will be “just fine” as if ability automatically results in happiness and success.  It doesn’t. Our gifted children are often highly sensitive; many struggle to develop friendships with their same-age peers, and school is often quite hard for them — not because the course work is hard but because the environment challenges their patience and endurance.

 

Gifted children are an at-risk population.  I’ve seen far too many under-served gifted children fall into bouts of depression and anxiety — even more that simply stop trying, giving up before their life’s really begun — and many who find not-so-great ways to use their abilities that land them in trouble later in life.  

 

When we started HEROES in 2007,  we had big dreams for what we could do– would do, but we couldn’t do it all right away.  In the beginning,  we provided social programs and emotional support. We pooled resources together and advocated for these students, and we ran a few scattered academic programs that finally allowed these children to experience an educational environment in which they were mentally stimulated — an environment in which they could learn how to learn — an environment in which they could socialize with other children who held similar interests. 

 

​Thirteen years ago, Dr. Ray Caprio, Vice President of Rutgers University Continuing Studies, told a gathering of HEROES parents that a school for gifted children could be built if 5 parents would commit to the project for 5 years.  This hope brought many of us to tears.  Strangers hugged each other.  Sign up sheets were passed around and filled out.  Promises of support were made.  Everyone congratulated us on this great step forward for our children.

Unfortunately, it takes much more than hope and good intentions to build a school.  Promises transformed into excuses.  Hope was based on the assumption that someone else would do the work and make the sacrifices. My mom refused to give up on this dream. She was determined to turn this dream into a reality. She decided to lead by example, by being the first to sacrifice her time, money, comfort, and other interests. ​

 

What was once my mom’s dream has since become a dream that we share as mother and daughter.  For years, we tried to open a school for the gifted using public funds.  ​There was simply not enough grant funding available, and regulations on charter schools were far too restrictive to allow us to adequately serve these children.  In 2013, we took the plunge; we opened HEROES Academy in New Brunswick, NJ.  

 

Thirteen years after starting HEROES and more than a million dollars later, we are about to take the next big step toward turning that dream into a reality by buying a permanent home for HEROES Academy in Monroe Township.

 

​We’re preparing to close on a property, 3059 Englishtown Road in Monroe Twp, NJ.  This property will allow us room to grow — to expand our programs and resources for gifted and talented students.  We will continue offering weekend accelerated math and language arts classes.  Ultimately, this location provides us with the land we need to be able to offer full-day programs, IQ testing, social programs, and other resources for gifted children, their parents, and their educators.  

​ Thirteen years ago, when my mom addressed the gathering of parents of NJ’s brightest students, she said:

If New Jersey’s parents want programs for their gifted children, they will have to create them and fund them.  Funding is not going to come from the government.  It will not come from foundation money.  The only source is us.

What she said 13 years ago, is still true today.  She’s personally contributed over $1,000,000 toward scholarships, advocacy, programming, and building HEROES Academy for NJ’s gifted children.  But we can’t do all of it alone.  We need others to contribute to this effort.  We need every parent to contribute to this project.  The total cost of Phase I of this project will be more than $500,000.  We’ve launched a GoFundMe to raise funds to cover part of the renovation costs.  To succeed we need your help.  

If 4 other parents would have accepted this challenge 13 years ago, a publicly funded school for NJ’s gifted children would have opened on Rutgers property in Piscataway 8 years ago.  That option died because everyone assumed that someone else would help out.  They assumed someone else would do the work and provide the funding.

Today we are at a new critical point toward building a school for New Jersey’s gifted children.  There are  ​1.3 million students in NJ; 130,000 of these students are gifted children in need of services.   They need your help. We need your help.  Don’t assume that someone else is going to help.  Help us and the gifted students of NJ today by contributing to our Go Fund Me and sharing our fundraiser with your friends, family, and social networks.  

When we open our new facility, we will continue to offer accelerated weekend enrichment in math and language arts.  We’ll have two classrooms and a waiting area.  Our architect put together some 3D renderings of the future space.  We’ll move in at the end of June and all classes for the 2020 – 2021 Academic Year will meet in this new location.  

We plan to add on two additional classrooms and a library shortly after moving in.  This will provide us with enough classroom space to begin full day programs.  

In order to make this happen, we need your help.  Your donations will provide gifted children with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.  If you’re unable to donate at this time, we ask that you share this story with your network.  Each share gets us closer to our goal.  

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