Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) desires to see students flourish. As a way of realizing this vision, GCO supports organizations that have a similar heartbeat to see students succeed. One such organization is the Gifted Education Foundation (Gifted).
This summer, GCO had the privilege of hosting Gifted’s founder, Anthony Flynn, for a Lunch & Learn where he discussed how Gifted got started and the impact it is making in the community. Local high school students, education leaders, and various non-profit workers came to the event to learn more about this promising organization.
Flynn opened the session by sharing an inspiring testimony about his life.
Born to a 17-year-old single mother in Memphis, Tennessee, his childhood was marked by upheaval and transition. Nonetheless, he overcame adversity and earned a scholarship to play football at Tennessee Tech University. College proved to be another period of trials, however, as he found himself surrounded by peers who made negative choices. After attending this school for just a semester, he decided to transfer to the University of Memphis where he would go on to graduate in four years.
After graduating from college, Flynn continued his education and earned a Master of Arts (Religion) from Memphis Theological Seminary. During this time, he worked as a student pastor where he served and mentored many at-risk students. This work led him to become involved in sustainable urban development that focused on restoring the economic, educational, and social foundation of his community, and later to serve as president of a national organization that trains urban leaders to impact America’s 250 most at-risk zip codes. From these experiences, Flynn went on to found Gifted in 2012.
Gifted exists to produce first generation college graduates and marketplace leaders from low-income communities across America. It is built upon the premise that every child has the potential to succeed if given the opportunity and guidance he or she needs.
Flynn believes that although “16 million American children are growing up in poverty,” they do not have to stay there. They can move forward “with the right educational opportunities and a structured system of leaders guiding them through a proven process.”
Providing this opportunity and guidance is precisely what Gifted seeks to do.
As a way of accomplishing this mission, Gifted has developed a four-phased strategy. Each phase prepares students for their next step in life, equipping them with the skills and resources needed to maximize their potential:
Phase 1: The Gifted Preparatory School
The first phase of the strategy involves preparing high school students for college, careers, and the rest of their life by teaching them general life skills, improving their ability to take standardized tests, building college and career awareness, and directing students toward scholarship and financial aid options.
Phase 2: The Gifted College Access Program
The second phase is designed to serve a select group of students who receive comprehensive life skills development and college readiness training. This training occurs on a college campus throughout students’ junior and senior years of high school. The focus is on improving their writing and standardized test-taking abilities, guiding them through the college application process, scholarships and financial aid, and strengthening their life skills in the realm of decision-making, conflict resolution, and time management, among others.
Phase 3: The Gifted Mentoring Program
The third phase provides students who successfully complete the Gifted College Access Program with hands-on, experiential coaching through the Gifted Enrichment and Retention Curriculum. Each student is assigned to a Life Development Coordinator and placed in cohorts where life-on-life accountability and support is deliberated throughout their entire undergraduate education. Students will also participate in leadership development programs, internships, fellowships, and research graduate school options.
Phase 4: The Gifted Leadership Program
Finally, the fourth phase consists of two tiers:
The first tier will provide college graduates with a key marketplace partner who will serve as a life and career mentor. Graduates will work to develop short, medium, and long-term goals in a variety of life categories. In addition, they will cultivate leadership skills, work to enhance existing relationships, and develop a civic and community engagement plan.
The second tier is for graduates who have the criteria in place to become marketplace leaders. They will receive preparation for mid-level to senior-level executive leadership roles in the marketplace, mentor at least one student in the Gifted program, receive training and opportunity for philanthropy and high-impact community involvement, and be trained to serve as entry-level board members for community and non-profit organizations.
Through the implementation of this strategy, Gifted hopes to achieve three outcomes over the course of a student’s involvement with the program. The first is that Gifted students graduate high school equipped with academic and life skills necessary to enroll in and be successful at a four-year college/university. The second is that Gifted students graduate college and are successfully hired in the marketplace or enrolled in graduate school within six months of college graduation. The third is that Gifted alumni take on the responsibility of mentoring at least one other student within six months of their graduation.
Cultivating the mentality of giving back is important for the continued success of the program and for growing lifelong, benevolent people that will continue to serve their communities.
Gifted’s comprehensive approach prepares students to be successful in college, in their career, and in life. For this reason, GCO is proud to encourage community partners to support Gifted in seeing students reach their full potential.
To learn more about Gifted, get involved with their work, or read stories about their success, visit http://iamgifted.org/.