The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Helping gifted students get through summer

Jeremy Kalfus, 14, with suitcase he packed as he prepared to attend a Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth residential summer program. It was supposed to start on June 26 but was canceled late on June 24. (Family photo) (Mason Kalfus)
Placeholder while article actions load

Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth canceled dozens of on-campus courses across the United States [“Hopkins leaves 870 teenagers in the lurch,” Metro, June 28]. Though the loss of this unique opportunity has disappointed the families of about 870 expectant students, the cancellations have instigated a scramble in which many academically advanced high school students are now facing their worst nightmare as they look for replacement opportunities.

Advanced high school students rely on rigorous summer programs to gain unique academic insight, research experience and/or mentorship from academic professors, none of which is possible during the typical eight-hour school day. In the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic has opened a plethora of doors for students: Upon going virtual, software engineering internships targeted at undergraduates also hired high school students. However, the pandemic has exacerbated the emergent fad of “multi-interning.” For advanced high-schoolers, multiple “full-time” commitments have become more common.

This practice isn’t just a desperate attempt at the elusive perfect résumé. Rather, I believe the fear of program failure — having nothing to show for their summer — causes multi-interning, and CTY’s cancellations only exacerbate concerns.

Programs are unexpectedly canceled. Start-ups are discontinued. Mentors can lose interest. Though I do not condone multi-interning, students are reacting out of fear. As the “world leader in gifted education,” CTY needs to set a precedent of ensuring rigor and providing cancellation alternatives to discourage this damaging practice, for the benefit of both the program and students.

Alvan Caleb Arulandu, Herndon

It’s absurd that Johns Hopkins University officials indicated that they were “examining the reasons for the staffing issues” when it’s very obvious: This program is a cash cow for the university, but it refused to compensate staff appropriately.

As a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins, I was interested in instructing students in a field I’m passionate about, epidemiology, but the pay was measly compared with what I make at my full-time job. The university was offering $2,500 for instructors and $1,600 for teaching assistants (both pretax) while charging students $5,200 for a class for a potential net of, at most, about $90,000. (Classes are capped at 18 students.) In a tight labor market like the one we’re currently in, Johns Hopkins University can no longer get away with paying measly wages and expecting professionals to be interested.

The failure to notify families in a timely manner is, unfortunately, part of a broader pattern by the university of not prioritizing the communities they serve that I’ve witnessed, and a complete embarrassment. The students and families who were to participate in this program deserve so much better.

Tyler Adamson, Baltimore