As a student at Appalachian State University, summer employment was hard to come by. With about half its population made up of college students, the sleepy mountain town of Boone, NC became a lot quieter during the summer, and anyone planning on sticking around past May needed to have something lined up in advance.
During my senior year, I had a coveted on-campus job as a consultant in the University Writing Center, but there were limited openings for summer staffing there, and I knew I needed another plan to get me through until I started graduate school in August.
I started looking for openings at summer camps in the area, and when I stumbled across an opening for a teaching assistant for Duke TIP’s Summer Studies Program at App State, I thought to myself, “hey, aren’t they the ones who let me take the SAT as a seventh grader?”
I applied for the position right away and was thrilled when I found out I’d been hired as a teaching assistant for the psychology course. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my summer than helping gifted kids develop a fascination with the human mind similar to my own in the very same classrooms I’d learned in during my time at App State.
By the end of our first week, I was blown away by the TIPsters in my class – blown away by how much they knew, the complexity of the questions they asked, but most of all by how much fun they had while learning. And by the end of term 2, I felt I’d gotten a small taste of TIP’s magic. I watched students who arrived at TIP shy and unsure leave with great friends, exciting new ideas, and a sense of belonging that some of them had never felt before.
Now I am almost four years removed from my teaching assistant days, and I find myself sitting in TIP’s main office in Durham, NC. I became a grad school dropout, then got laid off from my job at the unemployment office (the irony is not lost on me), then finally found my place in the world of nonprofits when last year, like déjà vu, I saw a job posting from Duke TIP.
Now, I get to be part of a team that ensures TIP is accessible to every gifted student regardless of their family’s financial situation as the development and alumni Relations coordinator, and I continue to experience the magic of TIP every day.
Having seen TIP from the frontlines of Summer Studies and behind the scenes in the main office, I’ve gotten a unique perspective on the organization. Every staff member you meet believes in the importance of what TIP does – from the executive director to the teaching assistants – and they are all dedicated to making sure that every gifted student has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The values we hope our students leave TIP with – playful curiosity about the world around them, an appreciation of their community, and a passion for lifelong learning – are echoed in our culture here in the main office. We are encouraged to question the status quo, to ask for help when we need it, and to strive for continuous improvement in our work.
I am grateful to TIP for seeing the potential in me (twice!) as they’ve seen the potential in millions of gifted students over the years, and I am excited to help provide more students with the opportunity to experience TIP’s magic.