Hartford's Renzulli Academy in Hartford was founded four years ago as a destination for the city's most inquisitive young minds and the gifted and talented student body is embracing the challenges provided.
"What we're really looking for are students who have that high potential, that self-regulation, the high ability, and are really passionate about wanting to learn," Director Ruth Lyons said.
High CMT scores and teacher recommendations lead most of the students to this program, which is based on nearly 50 years of research by UConn Professor Joe Renzulli.
"Being with these kids and seeing how hard they're working, how much they're learning, how excited they are about learning, is as much pay of as one could expect," the world-renowned educator said.
Most students start at the school in 4th grade and the transition from their neighborhood schools can be difficult, because school has been easy for a lot of them.
However, at Renzulli, the tasks are harder and challenging.
Eighth grader Vernisha Johnson, who has her eye on law school, welcomes the opportunity to push herself.
"It's more hands-on. It's a chance for me to see what I know and learn about things I want to know, something that I like, rather than something someone throws at me to learn," the 13-year-old from the North End said.
Cristian Osorio, who hopes to become a doctor, enjoys the camaraderie.
"I like collaborating with a group. They help me get my ideas and then they can help me with what I'm thinking of," the Parkville resident said.
Most Renzulli students work well above grade-level and their projects are largely self-directed, so every teacher undergoes specialized training in gifted and talented education.
The Renzulli model is growing.
In Hartford, the academy added ninth grade this year and plans to expand to all four high school years going forward.
New academies are opening in New London, Windham and Bridgeport in the fall, which speaks well to Joe Renzulli’s life’s work.
"It's really, in a lot of ways, a dream come true," he said.