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Middle school students move to Barrett

June 25, 2007

College students are getting younger, or so it seems. Nearly 50 seventh-graders from around Arizona will move into the halls at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, on June 24 for a week of rigorous advanced math classes and fun.

Another 90 eighth- and ninth-graders will take over the halls for three weeks July 8-27, studying biology, engineering, architecture and digital animation. They'll also read Plato, Sartre and Thoreau, swapping ideas on philosophy and writing papers in class.

These whiz kids are part of the Barrett Summer Scholars Program, which kicked off last summer and was such a success that it was expanded to two sessions this year.

The students come from Bullhead City, Kayenta, Kingman, Lake Havasu City, San Luis, Sedona, Taylor, Window Rock, Winslow and Yuma, in addition to the Phoenix metro area. All are gifted youngsters who have scored in the 97th percentile or above on a state-recognized cognitive ability test.

ASU hopes the taste of campus life at a major university will whet their appetite for more, creating a pipeline of talented students who will enroll as freshmen in a few years. It's part of the Access ASU initiative, to increase the number of Arizona children who see college in their future.

“One of our goals is to maintain connections with them after they leave,” says Jo Ann Martinez, executive coordinator. “Some of last year's participants had such a good time that they cried at the end. We brought them back during this past school year to shadow their former resident advisers from the program – all honors students – around campus, and they also came to a personal reception with author Jules Feiffer, the Flinn Centennial Lecturer.”

The pint-sized scholars also will have plenty of fun this summer, taking field trips to the other ASU campuses, swimming at the ASU Student Recreation Complex and watching movies.

Nathaneal Burrell, an eighth-grader who attended last year and will return this summer, says his favorite experiences were getting to hear talks by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and astronaut Sally Ride – and playing games at Sparky's Den.

Thomas Martin, Barrett lecturer who taught the students last summer, will act as wizard again this summer, teaching from the book, “Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts,” co-edited by ASU faculty member Shawn Klein. Barrett students will serve as counselors and advisers.

“These students are very bright, so their intellectual level is comparable to very good college students,” Martin says. “They are enthusiastic, since this is an adventure into college life, which is still terra incognita for them.

“We want to foster an environment in which they keep asking interesting questions, and discovering new answers. We want these students to seriously consider ASU and Barrett as an option when they get a little older. We believe that at Barrett, they can get an education that is comparable, if not superior, to what they could get at an Ivy League school.”

Barbara Barrett, a driving force behind the formation of the program, may also play a role in the summer events.