by Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn
In 2005, I began my journey as a school psychologist in one of the most diverse and largest school districts in the country. I had no way of knowing that this journey would lead me to develop a life long passion for Gifted/Talented (G/T) students in general and specifically those from culturally diverse backgrounds.
In 2006, I was invited by my supervisors to participate on the Gifted Task Force Committee. This committee was created to address concerns related to the under-representation of culturally diverse students classified as gifted in our school district. As a result of joining the committee, I was forced in a sense to significantly increase my knowledge about the identification and service of gifted students from culturally diverse populations. When the work of the Gifted Task Force Committee was complete, I felt compelled to continue educating myself about this population of students. I spent countless hours in the library where I checked out books and requested research articles related to gifted students from culturally diverse backgrounds. In addition, I searched for opportunities that would provide me a more hands-on approach to learning the information that I was seeking. So, when I became aware that the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) was seeking applications for the Mary Frasier Scholarship, I immediately applied. To make a long story short, I was awarded the scholarship which serves the purpose of increasing an educator’s knowledge about the identification process and educational needs of gifted students from culturally diverse backgrounds.
With my new-found knowledge, I knew it would be important to apply what I learned in my practice as a school psychologist. I was now armed with knowledge that could possibly change the lives of the gifted students with whom I worked. I received a small grant to establish a school based Gifted Resource Center in 2007. Having the resource center allowed me to provide information and assist gifted students and their parents in various ways. When I receive a phone call from a parent thanking me for helping them obtain additional services for their child or when a student shares their joy with me because they received an acceptance letter from the high school of their choice, it lets me know that this population of students are in need of specialized attention as the current research clearly states.
In one of the research articles I read, the researcher expressed that so much talent is being wasted among gifted students from culturally diverse populations due primarily to a lack of identification. I find the latter statement to be very true. For example, I currently know a twelfth grade African-American student who aspires to become an engineer. Despite scoring extremely well on the state administered achievement tests since third grade and achieving excellent academic grades, this student has never been referred for gifted programming. This student’s parents did not attend college and are just now seeking assistance to help their son in his last year of high school. His family describes him as a “math wiz” and an excellent student. Although this student has done well academically, he has received very little guidance related to planning and his goals of pursuing a career in engineering. I often wonder where this student would be educationally if he would have received services for students classified as gifted. I often wonder if this student would have benefitted from entrance to academic talent searches or participation in summer enrichment programs for gifted students. What is even more disturbing is that he has a brother in the seventh grade that has a similar academic profile but has never been referred for gifted programming. His brother would also like to pursue a career in engineering. Unfortunately, the dim reality is that there are many more gifted students like the ones described above from culturally diverse backgrounds that are not identified as gifted and, therefore, do not receive the necessary educational services required to reach their full potential.
I truly enjoy working with this population of students, it is extremely rewarding. I hope to somehow increase society’s awareness of the specialized needs of this population. I hope to also increase awareness about the talent we are wasting among students from culturally diverse backgrounds, which in my eyes is a tragedy.
Tiombe-Bisa Kendrick is a nationally certified school psychologist and is licensed to practice school psychology in the state of Florida. She has been employed with the Miami-Dade County Public School District as a school psychologist since 2005. Ms. Kendrick has a very strong passion for addressing the needs of gifted students from culturally and linguistically diverse populations and has been instrumental in significantly increasing the numbers of culturally diverse students participating in the Gifted Program at her schools. In addition, she has many helped parents find services outside the school district to help address the needs of their gifted children. In 2006, Ms. Kendrick was a member of Miami-Dade Public Schools Gifted Task Force Committee and was also awarded the Mary Frasier Scholarship sponsored by the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC). In 2007, she was both appointed to the NAGC Diversity/Equity Committee and was awarded a grant by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Children Fund Inc to establish a resource center specifically designed for gifted students from culturally and linguistically diverse ackgrounds. Ms. Kendrick completed her undergraduate work at Miami Dade College and Florida State University and her graduate work at Barry University. Ms. Kendrick has presented at numerous professional conventions on the topic of gifted children.