If a picture is worth a thousand words, a photo of the finalists in the 2010 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair speaks volumes. Granted, it represents high-achievers in science and engineering only. Agreed, that it is only a snapshot in time, and representative of the best among those who dared enter the local science competitions. However, with all the caveats we can muster, there is no escaping the fact that talent doesn’t have a monochromatic hue.
When the top winners were announced in San Jose, California, Amy Chyao of Richardson, Texas, received the first-place honor. Kevin Ellis of Vancouver, Washington, and Yale Fan, of Beaverton, Oregon, also received prizes. The 19 Best of Category winners, from which the top three were chosen, included entrants from Brazil, the UK, and South Korea. Maryland had but one finalist in Yifan Li from Rockville.
There were several Marylanders among the ninth through twelfth graders who won Special
Awards and earned the right to compete by winning top prizes at local, regional, state or national science fairs. Urbana High School in Ijamsville; Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School in Rockville; Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring; North Point High School for Science, Technology, and
Industry in Waldorf; Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda; W.E.B. DuBois High School in Baltimore, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, and North County High School in Glen Burnie fielded state level finalists. Kudos to these youngsters for what they have accomplished.
Finalist Li was one of 15 Montgomery County Public Schools semifinalists this year, and one of twelve from Intel powerhouse Montgomery Blair. There was one each from Richard Montgomery, Wootton, and Walt Whitman.
The overarching lesson that these students teach us is that public schools can nurture real talent. Furthermore, when they do, it may look nothing like what we are programmed to expect. Look at the names of semifinalists from Montgomery Blair, reproduced below.
Itzhak Perlman, the violin virtuoso, is quoted as saying “Somebody asked me once, ‘Why are so many Jews great violinists?’ I don’t know. It’s a cycle, it’s a hunger. Today, the cycle is not necessarily toward the Jewish violinists but Asian ones. Koreans are number one right now. A lot of people say, well, you have to be Jewish to play it this way. I don’t know if this is true or not. But maybe pain and suffering, a little krechts in what you’re doing, a sigh—a real sigh—helps.”
Yes, now we know talent can be found anywhere. Finding it, nurturing it, and giving it the best opportunity to thrive should be the goal of every public school.
Oh, I almost forgor, a starry night, with the ones you love, and Itzhak Perlman softly playing in the background, can make you sigh—a real sigh—with utter bliss.
Author’s note: A companion piece, The many hues of talent, can be found here.
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