Gifted Kids Get Present of Being UCI Summer Pupils

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a cascade of donations, UC Irvine's summer program for gifted students has enough money to take all the children who were accepted but could not afford to go.

What's more, the program likely will have enough money for scholarship students for the two following summers.

Three weeks ago, university officials were telling 88 children and their teachers there would be no financial aid this year because of a drop in corporate donations.

After learning of the children's plight, individuals, companies and foundations stepped forward.

More than $110,000 in checks and cash has been donated and an additional $200,000 is promised.

"Financial aid is always going to be an issue," said Darlene Boyd, who runs the university's Precollege Academy. "But it won't be as great an issue now."

The gifts allowed 50 children, in addition to the 88 who had applied for money, to attend--children who had been accepted but hadn't even asked for financial aid because they knew there wasn't any money.

The program, one of the few of its kind in the state, gives about 700 gifted middle-school students a week or more at UC Irvine, living in the dorms like college students and taking classes in such subjects as sculpture, biology and music, at a cost of $675 a week.

"My students are just ecstatic," said Daniel Chen, who teaches sixth grade at Holder Elementary School in Buena Park. The 25-year-old teacher recommended eight of his students for the program after staying after school with them almost every afternoon this year, working on math and mind games and supervising them as they tutored other students.

Because scholarships have always been offered, his students were stunned when there was no money available.

But after a story was published in The Times, donations flooded in.

Leonard Nimoy, famous for his role as Mr. Spock on the TV show "Star Trek," and his wife, Susan, pledged $10,000 and promised to match some other donations. An anonymous donor in Maryland pledged $70,000 to set up a fund to help students each year. A Los Angeles donor gave money to send more than a dozen students from a gifted magnet program in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Retired couples, single mothers and others pledged smaller amounts.

More than $30,000 went directly to Holder Elementary School. That's enough not only to send Chen's eight students but more than 20 others at the school and surrounding middle schools. Money left over will be put into a trust fund to allow future students to attend the program.

"I told them, if you have something you want, keep trying and anything can happen," Chen said. "In this case, it went above and beyond that."

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