CALIFORNIA & GEORGIA
Ilan & Church - Zip Codes 90032 & 31402
Ilan is a 20-year old gifted LatinX transgender artist who we met while filming at the Early Entrance Program (EEP) at Cal State Los Angeles. For Ilan, EEP provided a safe haven to explore art and gender identity. While at EEP, they met their partner Church who identifies as genderqueer, and they’re now both in graduate art school at SCAD in Savannah, Georgia.
Are gender identity, the brain, intelligence, creativity, and traumatic narratives interconnected? And, why are so many transgender and gender nonconforming tweens and teens showing themselves to be some of the most highly gifted students in our nation’s schools? These are the questions we're exploring with the help of Ilan and Church. Ilan is also providing original animations for the film.
The Hayes Family & Big Minds - Zip Code 94803
Twice Exceptionality (Being 2e) and neurodiversity are key aspects of 21st century giftedness. We explore what it looks like when giftedness sits right along side disability through deep and unfettered access to the Hayes family in Northern California. Anchored by the story of Melanie Hayes, a 57 y.o. Mom of 2e twin teenagers who founded the BIG MINDS Unschool for twice exceptional (2e) children, we spend intimate amounts of time getting to know each family member, including her kids, Dylan and Morgan who have very different learning and social challenges. The film presents the Hayes family as an “Every Family,” hence the above reference to "American Gothic," helping to normalize the traumatic aspects of what it means to grow up in a 2e household. As Melanie often tells us, 2e families are far more common than people think and parents are often demonized by school systems for bad parenting.
As part of the documentary, Dylan, age 17, has been filmed undergoing a full battery of neuropsychological, psychological and intelligence testing at Summit Center in Walnut Creek, CA, one of the most highly regarded testing centers for gifted and 2e people in the nation. This included interviews with their award winning team to help demystify the testing process for the broader public. Both Dylan and his sister Morgan see their participation in the film as their chance to change the world for 2e people everywhere. Being a champion for the underdog is common trope among so many of these families.
Solano Prison - Zip Code 95687
THE G WORD crew spent time filming inside Solano State Prison through a creative collaboration with the Marin Shakespeare Company’s game changer / restorative justice “Shakespeare in Prison” program. We filmed both a rehearsal and performance of PERICLES and got to know some 30+ men who are in for life without parole yet they hunger to express their intelligence and creativity. We encountered deeply moving personal stories from these men by chronicling and participating in their creative works. It was a powerful day, and yes, giftedness exists inside the prison system and it is very much connected to the detention to prison pipeline problem in our education system.
San Luis - Zip Code 85349
Five minutes from the U.S. border with Mexico, and in the second poorest zip code in the state of Arizona, San Luis is a rural community comprised of Mexican Americans, Spanish speakers, and undocumented and migrant field workers. Yet, its Gadsden School District is consistently ranked as one of the highest in the nation using a number of measures, and its students compete with the most affluent in our nation when it comes to sending young people to Center for Talented Youth summer camps for advanced learners.
THE G WORD documentary team has spent significant time filming in San Luis getting to know the people who are the players in this unexpected story. How has this community defied all of the odds while also challenging every mainstream stereotype about what it means to grow up by the border? It's a surprisingly simple proposition. Everyone at every level of this community cares deeply about the future of its kids. As a consequence, many of the young people go away to the top schools and come back home to the area to do great things and give back. Arturo, age 27, to the right, has been to Harvard, Duke and Columbia and is now a City Planner in Yuma, AZ. For years, he crossed the border on foot each morning to access the supports only available in Gadsden School District.
Lee Family - Zip Code 95020
The Lee Family has done the remarkable. They are migrant farmers who move with the agro-year and split their time between San Luis, AZ and Gilroy, CA. Despite having spent half the school year in San Luis and the other half in Gilroy—a very tough annual transition for any student—their daughter Brenda excelled. During high school she was actively involved in mentoring other daughters of farm workers. She has received scholarships to continue her university studies and is currently studying criminal justice at Chico State University in Chico, CA, with the goal of becoming a police detective to gain experience before heading back to law school and become a family lawyer.
The Center for BrainHealth - Zip Code 75235
The Brain Performance Institute in Dallas, TX is where our 2e and neurodiverse populations are being given serious attention and meaningful support through its Center for BrainHealth.
The staff here are pioneers in what they call the brain-health revolution, and serving the world’s neurodiverse populations is just one of a whole slate of important 21st priorities. Their cognitive neuroscience work on behalf of gifted and twice exceptional features a social learning program called “Charisma,” which includes VR environments, interactive games, role play, mindfulness, and hands on mentoring from coaches.
Baltimore, MD - Zip Code 21251
The urban setting of Baltimore brings together various story arcs of THE G WORD, including -- the story of Martin Jenkins, a Black Scholar from the 1930s and 1940s who pioneered research on Black Intelligence and Black Giftedness, the work of present-day Black Scholar Dr. Joy Lawson Davis who is trying to make sure that Jenkins receives the recognition he deserves, and the journey of a family in present-day Baltimore that shows us how racism, poverty, and inequity continue to play out in startling ways for young, Black Gifted kids in our major urban centers, in spite of education programs trying to serve them and meet their needs.
At the 2018 National Association for Gifted Children Conference where we met two Dr. Jenkins Scholars, Haviland Whiting, age 16 from Tennessee, and John Sumter, age 13 from South Carolina. The ceremony in their honor was followed by a talk show style conversation which inspired a 4th grader named Elliott who was excited to meet other Gifted Black youth.
The Dr. Martin D. Jenkins Scholar Award is named after Dr. Jenkins, Father of Research on Gifted Black Students, and is designed to honor the achievements of highly gifted Black students who excel academically in school.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe School - Zip Code 55720
Giftedness resides in places and spaces we don’t predict or expect, and smart children are being identified and supported in spite of racism and poverty. In Northern Minnesota we discovered that the educators here have built something that is working because it is both culturally appropriate and celebrates the students' Ojibwe language and culture. They're also doing an incredible job of honoring the traumatic narratives that come with being Native American in the Great state of Minnesota.
There is a stunning amount of multi-generational trauma here tied to a brutal period, beginning in the 1800s and continuing into the 1970s, when Minnesota Indian children were forcibly rounded up and placed in boarding schools designed to erase their culture, identity, language, rituals, really anything about them that was Native or Indian. It was a profoundly moving experience and it is entirely clear that the Native American gifted students here are at the center of a nascent movement to breathe life back into their cultural identities and language.
Northshore School District - Zip Code 98021
Dr. Michelle Reid is the Northshore School District's visionary Superintendent who's working to change outcomes for under-represented students by making sure that every student in her District of 23,000 students gets tested for giftedness. THE G WORD team visited Dr. Reid at Bear Creek Elementary School -- 20 miles northeast of Seattle -- where the gifted and talented classroom is actually starting to look more and more like 21st century diverse America. This district is exemplar of Suburban America where 94 languages are spoken in its households. They've embraced the words HIGHLY CAPABLE over GIFTED, which is having great results. They're also focusing on the whole child and working hard to remove the "us vs. them" mentality that has plagued so many Gifted & Talented programs in public schools around the country.
The Northshore District provides evidence that communities and their schools can be more inclusive, more focused on equity, and ultimately quite successful at taking care of our nation's best and brightest children --- regardless of their race, class, language, sexuality, gender identity, or immigration status!
MEET THE EXPERTS
We've assembled an impressive group our nation's most dynamic experts and thought leaders to contemplate race, gender, class, and sexual identity, especially in relationship to giftedness, the IQ and 21st century ideas around what constitutes intelligence. Collectively, they represent some of the best universities, schools, media outlets, policy institutes, and educational research facilities.