One Child, One Life ...

It’s easy to get caught up in the busy holiday season and to sometimes forget what is most important … nurturing our children. As parents, the window of opportunity for providing a loving, supportive environment is only open for a short time. Use that time wisely. Do not take anything for granted involving their education, their social-emotional development or their individual needs. Life affords us but one chance to foster the next generation. Becoming a parent happens in an instant. Parenting is a lifelong endeavor. 

Over the past several years, I have had the privilege of interacting with some impressive young people in the gifted community both online and in person. All of them benefited from nurturing environments provided by their parents.  

Meet Calista Frederick-Jaskiewicz. I first met Calista as a young child at a STEM Advocacy meeting where her mother had come to speak about her daughter's unique journey as a student who never attended a brick and mortar school; opting to attend one of the first cyber-schools in the nation in kindergarten. Calista sat quietly in the back of the room folding origami birds ... not something you'd expect to see at a STEM meeting. Over the years since that initial meeting, I've come to learn how important origami is to STEM fields and to see the incredible nurturing Calista's parents provided her. 

Calista has been the recipient of many honors and awards including: 2014 Trib Total Media Outstanding Young Citizen, Distinguished Finalist of the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, 2013 National Center for Women& Information Technology Aspirations in Computer Science Award Winner, a 2012 Kids are Heroes honoree, violinist with the Three Rivers Young Peoples’ Orchestra in Pittsburgh, and nine-time State Taekwondo Champion. Now a freshman at Georgia Tech, Calista continues to influence the world both academically and socially through her non-profit organizations, Origami Salami and Folding for Good

Meet Nikhil Goyal. Nikhil was a guest on #gtchat, a chat I moderate on Twitter, and a Keynote Speaker at this year’s Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented Annual Conference. It was a pleasure to meet him and listen to his talk on education reform and the value of student voice. There is no doubt that his parents provided a nurturing environment.

Nikhil’s accolades are many. At age 19, Nikhil Goyal is an activist and author of One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School as well as a book on learning, forthcoming from Doubleday-Random House in 2015. He has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC and FOX and has written for the New York Times, MSNBC, NPR,Huffington Post and Forbes. A Motivational Speaker, Goyal has spoken at Google, The Atlantic, Fast Company, NBC, MIT, Yale University, Stanford University, SXSW and others. He was named one of the “World Changers” for Dell #Inspire 100 (2012), named to 2013 Forbes 30 Under 30: Education List, one of ORIGIN Magazine’s The Nation’s Top Creatives. His first book, “One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School,” in 2012 offered a student perspective on the American education system. His upcoming book, The End of Creativity: How Schools FailChildren, is set to be released in 2015.

Meet Madeline Goodwin. Madeline was also a guest on #gtchat. An interview I did with her earlier this year can be found here. Madeline’s mother, Corin Barsily Goodwin, is the Executive Director of GiftedHomeschoolers Forum and a strong influence in her daughter’s life. Madeline was homeschooled her entire life and entered college at age 13. She credits her mother and step-dad for supporting her throughout college. This past spring, she graduated cum laude from Southern Oregon University and began graduate school in the fall.

While in college, Madeline became involved with the Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center on campus. Her interests included climate change, biodiversity, social justice issues, LGBTQ issues, women’s rights and human rights. After graduate school, she is considering the Peace Corps or Americorps.

Meet Jack Andraka. Jack was a Keynote Speaker at this year’s NAGC National Convention. Sitting in the audience, I was amazed that this young man was only 17. He was a witty, engaging speaker who just happens to be working on a prototype for an early-detection test for pancreatic and other types of cancer. His mother was sitting in the audience as well and Jack credits his parents for always supporting him in all his endeavors.

Jack’s TED Talk on his work has been viewed nearly 4 million times. He was a 2013 winner in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Jack did his research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine under the direction of Professor Anirban Maitra. This month, he announced that he will be attending Stanford University as a member of the Class of 2019.

Recent research in neuroscience points to the importance of creating a supportive environment for children to reach their full potential. Conversely, lack of a nurturing environment can have an untold detrimental effect on what children can achieve. Parents need to understand their roles in the lives of their children and to remember that .. one child, one life can change the world. Nurture your child like the world depends on it!