On January 26, 2013, the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary hosted their 15th annual conference entitled "Focusing on the Future: A Career and Academic Planning Experience." Attended by more than 350 parents and students, the purpose of this conference is to provide career and academic guidance for high-ability students in grades 6 through 12, their parents, and counselors.
Coordinated by Dr. Mihyeon Kim and graduate students, Amy Schmidt and Elizabeth Starke, the conference brings together various professionals within the William and Mary community as well as others from the surrounding Hampton Roads areas. Presenters were elated to meet, talk, and work with the young people and their parents in attendance on Saturday. In addition, the conference provided an opportunity for additional William and Mary student volunteers to interact with additional individuals working in the School of Education.
Students in attendance interacted with experts in various fields including, law, medicine, engineering, culinary arts, and others to learn more about what these individuals do in their daily work, their educational backgrounds, and future career opportunities in these fields. At the same time, parents attended sessions to learn about the college selection and application process, standardized testing, and financial aid as well as working with their teenaged children on such topics as perfectionism, socioemotional development, and bullying. Further, school counselors attended sessions on such topics as nurturing culturally diverse gifted children, time management skills, underachievement, and the college application process.
The conference opened with a panel session on the college selection process. Participants included Dr. Tracy Cross, Executive Director of the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary and the Jody and Layton Smith Professor of Psychology and Gifted Education, Mr. Timothy Wolfe, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions at The College of William and Mary, Ms. Heather O'Toole Jeter, Director of College Counseling at The Steward School, as well as a graduate and undergraduate student from William and Mary. A second opening session followed by Dr. Ellen Fithian on academic planning for middle school students. Both opening sessions inspired parents, counselors, and students with insights into the college admissions process and other valuable information.
One parent remarked, "This [conference] was an opportunity for my child to be in an academically-oriented environment with the chance to explore career options and get a glimpse of college life." Another parent noted, "This is my second year attending. I always find the information pertinent and well presented." The Focusing on the Future Conference serves to provide parents and counselors of high-ability students with a wide variety of knowledge surrounding college and career planning. Even though these students are highly intelligent, they can benefit from resources and information necessary to navigate this challenging process as much as other students. In sum, as noted by a parent, "The day overall went wonderful! I learned a great deal. It was worth every penny!"