Ray: Loner Boy and Renaissance Man
The Early Years
Trouble in 3rd Grade!
5th Grade Fun
Middle and High School
His favorite classes during middle school were his art classes. "These classes were more mixed, there weren't just GT kids, there was a little bit of everything so I felt comfortable." He went on to explain that these classes also inspired his passion for art; he recalls one of his teachers pulling him aside and explaining how good his work was, that it was different from the rest of the class. "I had always liked art and knew I was pretty good at it but this teacher talked to me as an individual and told me how good I was, it was special."
However, in his content area classes he continued to feel a distinction in race. In most of his classes he was the only Hispanic student but was able to build relationships with African-American gifted students. He remembers choosing to sit alone during lunch quite often since he wasn't very acquainted with the Hispanic students in his lunch due to the fact that he didn't share any classes with them and his African-American GT peers were involved in the school's sports programs so they were on different lunch schedules.
A few things from our readings about gifted culturally diverse students resonated with me when hearing Ray discuss his minority experiences. Hebert (2011) described within-group cultural differences as being sometimes greater than those among major minority groups. Such differences as educational experiences and language kept Ray from connecting with other Hispanic students.
In addition to being involved in outside activities Ray was also a member of many student organizations such as the Honor Society, Student Council, Art Honor Society, and the Student Empowerment Team which conducted peer mediation with high school students and mentoring for elementary and middle school students. "The friends I made in these groups weren't very interested in sports talk. So in a sense I had different groups of friends for the different things I did. I never felt weird about this but I just didn't fully connect with everyone so I was always quiet and reserved."
Ray also enjoyed working on car stereos and recalls building his first radio as an experiment with his dad after a trip to Radio Shack. "I really enjoyed taking things apart and felt happy when I understood how something worked." From that point on, Ray helped install radios for his friends and himself during his spare time. Of all his gifted peers, Ray was the only one who worked throughout his summer breaks, his motivation was to buy new car stereos.
"Working at Six Flags and volunteering at Scottish Rite also taught me alot about differences in people. I got to meet kids my age from different areas of DFW. Those were unique experiences." Ray further explained that these opportunities helped him become comfortable with being different and that he was glad he decided to participate in these areas himself, "my parents just supported me to do different things they never had to push me to do them."
I believe Ray's ability to build and maintain friendships and accept the differences in them and the people he met along the way is a reflection of what Herbert (2011) describes as the belief in self in gifted males. Ray used his emotions as tools to make sense of his experiences; his ability to do well with different groups of students his age demonstrates a multicultural appreciation and the drive he had to achieve in his extracurricular activities reflects his inner will. Also, Ray had the ability to navigate through the dominant culture while learning to be culturally flexible in his participation. Herbert (2011) referred to this as biculturality, this ability enabled Ray to engage in achievement-oriented behaviors without feeling giving up his cultural identity.
Garden of Irises
"I remember seeing this painting during my freshman year, I understood how Van Gogh felt, a single white iris among a sea of blue irises. I just get it!"
Rock in Colorado
This is a watercolor painting made by Ray during high school (circa 1998).
A pencil drawing made by Ray also in high school (circa 1998)
Garden of Irises
Although he was challenged throughout his course work and the class demographics were much more diverse than those in middle and high school, Ray still felt a need for a connection with a group. After visiting a cousin that was a member of a fraternity at a south Texas university, Ray decided he wanted to find a fraternity to join at UNT. "I saw that although these guys hadn't known each other for more than a year they were already like a family and that was cool." However, Ray saw that the only fraternities on campus were either white or black fraternities. So he decided to join student organizations instead. "I met lots of Latinos who were like-minded, they were different than the Latinos in the lunchroom in high school." After getting to know each other Ray and nine other male friends decided to establish a new fraternity on campus that was already established at many other universities throughout the country, Sigma Lambda Beta.
While in the fraternity he was able to bond with a select few that shared his same intellectual interests. "They always considered me as the deep thinker of the group and would heckle me about over-analyzing things. But we all appreciated each other and even if we didn't like the same things we supported each other." Ray's experience in the fraternity reminds me of the example of the Mesosystem in Bronfenbrenner’s Systems as as explained in Hebert, 2011. The young men in Ray's fraternity not only supported each other in their individual endeavors but also participated together in community service and leadership activities. Ray explained that their time together positively affected their future successes.
Self Reflection and the Present Day
Ray also stated that growing up, he really loved science but that he feels he missed the opportunity to grow in this area because in high school, "I had science teachers who had no business being teachers. This frustrated me a lot! So I realized as I grew older that I needed to teach myself science." Ray began teaching himself about organic farms and organic lawn care. "I spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos, documentaries, and reading about this stuff. But again, even the friends I have now look at me weird when I start talking about my organic lawn."
When asked if intellectual compatibility challenges changed when he began his career he said, "No, I really realized I was different than a lot of people when the FAA sent me to Oklahoma for trainings. The classes were easy for me while others struggled. I learned the job in less than five years, I don't have to think very much, I just do it."
"I was always really good at math but can honestly say I didn't love it. In high school I actually hated geometry, " stated Ray. Although his abilities in Math were above average and he found the work easy he didn't develop a passion for it. He explains that math has been a talent of his that he uses it as a tool to perform in music, art, and science. "I remember partying late with some of my fraternity brothers and taking an exam in one of my college calculus classes the next morning. Everyone was so stressed but I took the test and finished before others. The following day our professor announced that an MIT student auditing the class also took the test and that I outscored him. Everyone seemed really impressed but I didn't see the big deal."
Aside from keeping busy with his lawn care and occasional beat-making Ray began a small business in iPhone repair. The need for such a service has kept him on his toes as he encounters different problems he is thrilled to solve. When asked why he enjoyed this so much he replied that it makes up for the boredom he sometimes feels at work "and I get to take things apart and see how they work!"
Take a look below at what each of the colors mean.
Hebert, T. P. (2011). Understanding the social and emotional lives of gifted students. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press Inc.
Neihart, M., Reis, S. M., Robinson, N. M., & Moon, S. M. (2002). The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? Washington, DC: The National Association of Gifted Children.