Even in grade school, Teylor Parks knew the education system was filled with inequities.
As an eight-year-old, she was tapped to participate in her elementary school’s gifted program, also referred to as Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), and immediately noticed the difference in treatment.
“I think sometimes the way the gifted program works is a bit flawed in nature–to test the child at the age of five or six years old, and then not necessarily continue to test other children so they can be considered for advanced learning opportunities doesn’t seem balanced to me,” Parks shared with Essence. “I also feel there shouldn’t be systems in place that separate children in that way, without truly investing in addressing the education gaps that prevent some children from progressing like they should. I think it is important for kids that are showcasing a certain amount of academic rigor to get special attention, but that doesn’t mean neglect other students.”
This special treatment she mentioned usually starts in the first grade, and makes a huge impact on the outcome of how the child turns out as an adult. Designed to offer students deeper and more nuanced lessons, research has shown that creative and intellectual interests first nurtured in gifted programs often remain intact well into adulthood. The Education Corner reports that there appears to be a link between students who obtain gifted education services and post-graduate academic success. Several longitudinal studies have demonstrated that children who are identified as gifted during grades K-12 go on to higher levels of graduate education, including a significantly higher percentage of doctoral degrees.
Parks knew first-hand how these differences in treatment beginning in grade school manifested in adulthood, and decided to do something about it.
While an undergraduate student at Florida A&M University, she launched Dreamers at FAMU Youth Volunteer Organization where she offered resources to Florida area K-12 students interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) activities.
For her, it was truly a labor of love.
“We received some occasional funding from outside sources but mostly it was financed out of my own pocket, through side hustles I would take on,” she said, which was on top of a full workload as a college student.
Her compassion paid off. The organization served more than 300 students and this year, she officially expanded the effort to launch Achieve in Color ,an education foundation providing microgrants for classroom and community projects serving youth of color.
“The work we completed with Dreamers encouraged Black and Brown students to strive for excellence and follow their aspirations,” Parks shared in a statement. “Achieve in Color will support other leaders that want to do the same for the youth in their community.”
Now, Parks is aiming to help children all over the country. This year, she said she is crowdfunding for Achieve in Color and accepting applications for the first round of microgrants. “I just want to make sure everyone gets a fair chance.”