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Talent Match


February 27, 2003

When I signed up for Talent Match, I don’t think I fully understood the impact it would have on the lives of the students I was teaching or on my own life. I remember one week when I met with my students they told me how much they had been practicing their routine at home and were so anxious to show me their improvement. Seeing the pride they took in their newfound talent and their excitement to learn more made me really appreciate my own education and the talents I was developing at ASU. It was a truly inspiring experience to see the transformation that takes place in the kids from day one to the talent show at the end of the semester. I think we teachers were transformed too.

- Nyssa Packard, Talent Match Mentor, taught musical theater 

Talent Match has grown to become a dynamic program that provides local elementary school students exposure to the ASU campus and allows them to utilize the resources the university offers. Through the program, over 300 ASU students have worked closely with more than 500 elementary school children to help them develop their talents while applying their own.

Founded in 1999 by an Arizona State University honors student as a class project, Talent Match pairs ASU students from the Barrett Honors College (BHC) with students from St. Agnes Elementary School in Phoenix. A mentorship is formed that results in a newfound confidence in the young students, many of whom are from underprivileged backgrounds. Through this mentorship, students have the opportunity to practice and perform a newly acquired talent. At the end of a semester’s worth of lessons, each student performs his or her new talent at a talent show attended by both mentors and parents. 

Every fall and spring, BHC students mentor elementary school students in one-on-one lessons for an entire semester. Some of the talents taught in the past include music lessons, dance, singing, acting, various crafts, and sports. The elementary school students are bused to ASU so that they gain exposure to the campus and are able to use all of the many resources available at ASU.

Staff advisor Keith Southergill feels that part of the uniqueness of the program stems from the fact that the students are brought to ASU and are therefore exposed to the university at an early age. At the end of the semester, not only can a student perform his or her new talent, but each student has also acquired a new self-confidence as well as personal development skills. 

“When you attend the talent show at the end of the semester, you see how much each child has learned and witness first-hand the bonds formed with their mentors. It’s very powerful,” says Southergill. He adds that after attending his first talent show and seeing the packed audience there to support the students, he now attends every semester.

The BHC students themselves gain a lot from the program and enjoy working with the young students. Many BHC students stay on as mentors with the program for multiple years, often mentoring the same elementary school student several semesters in a row. Not only does the pairing make a lot of progress in mastering a given talent, but their personal connection grows as well. 

Many of the elementary school students who have participated were not on course for college, says Southergill. Involvement in the program and interaction with BHC students has given them a chance to find out about life at ASU and about college life in general.

A student coordinator, Katie Tiano, has run Talent Match for the past several years. According to Southergill, the program runs very smoothly under student leadership.

Often one of the few challenges in running Talent Match stems from having to arrange for the necessary resources to enable the lessons to take place, Southergill says. Such resources may include gaining access to a swimming pool for student use, or any other facility necessary to practice a particular talent. However, Southergill says, such efforts are made much easier due to the willingness of ASU departments and staff members around the university to help the program go forward. 

Southergill considers the quality and the commitment of the BHC students to be the greatest contribution to the success of the program. “If any honors students have any ideas for new community partnerships or have thoughts about getting involved in the community, I’d encourage them to meet with me or Dr. McManus to see how the college could support their endeavor,” says Southergill.