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Talent Search Spotlights Bright Kids

“You bring together top student talent, give them great classes with outstanding professors, bake it all in the hot Sacramento summer, stand back and look what you get.”

Star graphicA new class on germs and a Japanese language class that was jam-packed due to the popularity of Japanese animation highlighted the 20th summer of Academic Talent Search at Sac State.

The program for sixth- through ninth-graders offers accelerated and enrichment courses all across campus, many of them taught by Sac State faculty.

It was bigger than ever this year, with an enrollment of almost 1,700 and more than 100 classes. That’s compared to the 106 students who could choose among three classes in 1982, the program’s first year.

“What we have here is a recipe,” says longtime Academic Talent Search Director Terry Thomas. “You bring together top student talent, give them great classes with outstanding professors, bake it all in the hot Sacramento summer, stand back and look what you get.”

And “what you get,” he says, are highly motivated students who have learned to think critically and overwhelmingly choose to attend college. In fact, 95 percent of the program’s alumni have gone on to college. Almost 30 percent have gone to Sac State.

“While the Academic Talent Search experience is only for students in junior high school, we’ve found it has long-term, lasting effects,” Thomas says.

Many of the 18,500 former students keep in contact with the program, sharing their successes in college or careers. Some even come back to teach classes themselves. Among four alumni honored as distinguished alumni at the program’s 20th birthday celebration was Jordon Beasley. He graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in politics from Pomona College and is now a production coordinator with Digital Planet, a webcast production studio.

“I remember summer school here was as good as it could get—college campus with college classes and college professors,” Beasley says. “It was here I learned how to ask questions, and not the questions people want you to ask, but the questions you need to ask. As far as I’m concerned … Academic Talent Search was my academic foundation.”

The three others honored as distinguished alumni were Michael Areen, now a student at Stanford University, Kate McLean, now a student at the University of San Francisco, and Sherry Mombourquette, a 1998 Sac State graduate who now covers sports for the
Riverside Press-Enterprise.

“It was Academic Talent Search that gave me the confidence to go into a field that is still dominated by men,” Mombourquette says. She jokes that the program put her on the right track—she had once planned to be a lawyer.

Academic Talent Search began with the goal of offering advanced classes to high-achieving students who were often becoming bored with school. For many classes—algebra, Latin and others—students can earn school credit for a summer class that otherwise would have taken a year.

The program has since expanded to include classes in computer science, foreign languages, psychology and much more. There are classes focused on making learning fun, such as forensic science and writing short comedies, as well as personal enrichment classes such as fencing. What all the classes have in common is the independence and discovery they provide students.

The program has earned support throughout the Capital Region. Among its many champions is William H. Collard, a local attorney and 1957
Sac State graduate. He and longtime Sac State education professor Rodger Bishton provided the initial funding for Academic Talent Search’s merit scholar program.

“I just think we are so fortunate that we have the opportunity to help students with such outstanding abilities,” Collard says.

Students planning to attend Academic Talent Search take tests in the spring, and scores determine which classes they are qualified to take. Classes this year cost from $85 to $290, and scholarships are available.

Details: (916) 278-7032 or

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