About Academic Talent Search

Excellence in Education

In 2004, ATS Executive Director and Founder Dr. Terry Thomas was honored as the first recipient of the University's Lifetime Achievement Award for Community Service.

Academic Talent Search (ATS) provides academically challenging, fast-paced courses to highly able and motivated 4th through 9th grade students in the greater Sacramento area.

ATS is a non-profit organization which receives no state or federal funds. Sponsored by California State University, Sacramento (Sacramento State), ATS has an established tradition of providing educational experiences that are both mentally stimulating and fun. Over 1,600 students apply for ATS classes each summer. Since its founding in 1982, ATS has educated and inspired approximately 44,500 students.


  1. ATS brings together intellectual peers from throughout the Sacramento Valley region, allowing them to make new friends and improve social skills.
  2. The ATS teaching staff includes University faculty, community college professors, area public and private school instructors, and industry professionals.
  3. 4th and 5th grade students can discover new approaches to traditional topics and experience enrichment opportunities in new subject areas.
  4. 6th through 9th grade students can experience a collegiate environment while accelerating their learning in traditional subjects like mathematics and foreign language and exploring new topics which are not always available in regular school. Classes are held on the Sacramento State campus, and students are granted many of the same privileges that regular University students receive.

Qualifying for Academic Talent Search

Current 4th through 9th grade students are eligible to take the ATS Qualifying Exam (intermediate for 4/5, advanced for 6-9). Testing is offered at area public and private schools as well as on the Sacramento State campus.

Program History

The Academic Talent Search (ATS) program was founded by Dr. Terry Thomas in 1982. In the early 1980s, Dr. Thomas saw a need in northern California for the application of Dr. Julian Stanley's research in academic acceleration. Dr. Stanley's creation of the Study for Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) at Johns Hopkins University led to a greater national awareness of the need for talent identification and development opportunities for advanced adolescents. Believing that students should have a broad palette of educational options at a young age, and committed to the advancement of the gifted adolescent who frequently lacks support and nurturing from a public school system with limited resources, Dr. Thomas established the Academic Talent Search program at California State University, Sacramento (Sacramento State) to fill the void.

Since 1982, ATS has offered acceleration opportunities as well as enrichment coursework to sixth through ninth grade students (students entering grades seven through ten) from throughout the greater Sacramento region. Beginning in Summer 2009, ATS also began offering courses for students currently in grades four and five. Classes are held on the Sacramento State campus, giving participants the opportunity to sample university life at an early age. Parents report that the collegiate environment is beneficial in developing students' self-confidence and independence. For some students, particularly those from disadvantaged and underrepresented households, coming to Sacramento State for ATS classes makes college seem like an attainable goal.

Past partnerships with local organizations and companies such as Intel, SMUD, McClellan Air Force Base, Whole Foods, the Discovery Museum, VSP Vision Care, and Golden 1 Credit Union have allowed students to discover, hands-on, the real life applications of the theoretical principles they study in class.

Although ATS is sponsored by the University, it is a self-supporting program which receives no federal or state funding. ATS is committed to ensuring that no student is deprived of the opportunity for academic excellence and makes available financial aid scholarships to students each summer.

Since its founding, ATS has provided instruction to approximately 45,500 academically talented young scholars. Many of these students have gone on to achieve great success in college and in their chosen careers.

Staff List

Dr. Terry A. Thomas Founder
Scarlet Maurin Program Director
Lynda Nakamura Program Manager
David Johnson Academic Programs Coordinator
Andrea Flores Student Advisor
Bethanie Vang Student Advisor
Stefan Schoy Lead Program Assistant
Irene Diaz Program Assistant II
Tisho Ward Program Assistant II
Patricia Castillo Staff
Kestley Dietrich Staff
Ryan Kwock Staff
Hannah Shelton Staff
Mwengu Siwiti Staff
Gavin Veiga Staff
Marina Zambrano Staff