For the sixth year, students attended the GERI (Gifted Education Resource Institute) Summer Residential program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, for two weeks in July. Dajatay Barnes, Mia Sam, Chase Sam, Bella Nayquonabe, Molly Saboo, Louis Whiteman, Serenitie Morin, Blade Bastedo, and Adrian Wade all participated this year – and all were returning students. This was the fifth year that both Mia and Dajatay went to Purdue.
Students from all over the world attend the program; some of the places they are from include China, Columbia, India, and Korea, as well as from across the United States. In addition to students from Mille Lacs, other Native students from Standing Rock (SD), Ganado (AZ), and Lukachukai (AZ) come to GERI.
One program highlight is the annual fry bread contest. The Mille Lacs group, led by Mia Sam, produced enough fry bread for everyone at GERI to sample — and compare with the fry bread made by the students from Ganado.
Students are kept busy while they are at GERI! Some of the classes they took were: Feeding Future Humans, Vet Med, Lights Curtain Action!, European Game of Thrones, World of Spies, CSI Investigation, Robotec, Cyber Criminology, The Rise of the Internet of Things, Videography, and Experiments in Fluids. Students also participate in small counselor groups that focus on social, emotional, and personal growth.
Some of the skills and attributes that the GERI Summer pro- gram fosters are problem solving, critical and creative thinking, intellectual curiosity, persistence, independence, leadership, collaboration, and communication. Cultural diversity is a key element at GERI that is experienced daily with appreciation and understanding, and is celebrated at the Global Gala. Mia Sam shared a part of her culture this year at the Global Gala with her jingle dress dance and wowed the crowd!
Some of the comments from teachers and counselors about Mille Lacs students included:
• “She demonstrated curiosity and independence throughout the course,”
• “He continually contributed to group morale and worked hard to interact with students from other countries,”
• “His thoughts are deep and mature,”
• “She had great ideas and thoughts about all our learning activities,”
• “She displayed the very best ability in the class,”
• “She shows strong leadership skills, and steps up to participate when others hold back,”
• “She has a special kind of patience for others and herself that encourages them to continue doing their best,”
• “His enthusiasm was contagious,”
• “He demonstrated persistence and task commitment throughout the difficult puzzles we attempted,”
• “He became a leader and positively shared his perspective and ideas,”
• “Her leadership skills will continue to serve her well in the future,”
... and so many more wonderful observations.
Gregg Rutter, Nay Ah Shing Schools gifted program coordinator and GERI advisory board member, first reached out to Dr. Marcia Gentry, professor and director of GERI, in 2012 to inquire about best practices in gifted education and, specifically, her work with gifted Native American students. Dr. Gentry later invited the Band’s partnership in a scholarship program to allow Mille Lacs students to attend this program each year, promoting and supporting development for gifted, creative, and talented youth. For the past four years, Jeannie Gross, Nay Ah Shing Schools art teacher, has joined Gregg to chaperone Band students on this incredible two-week learning adventure to Purdue University.
“We now have students with aspirations of working at the GERI Summer Residential program as counselors — and even attending Purdue University in the future!” said Gregg. “We are so proud of our GERI Summer kids! They have done a fan- tastic job of representing themselves, their heritage, and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. These kids are surely our community’s future leaders!”