New ‘Talented and Gifted Academy’ Launching Next School Year

Ruby Young Personalized STEAM Academy | Image by Ruby Young Personalized STEAM Academy/Facebook
Ruby Young Personalized STEAM Academy | Image by Ruby Young Personalized STEAM Academy/Facebook

A local school district is expanding its curriculum and adding a new academy for gifted students.

Ruby Young STEAM Academy in Desoto ISD is opening its Talented and Gifted Academy (TAG) program for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year.

The Dallas Express spoke with Ruby Young principal Monica Smith to learn more about the upcoming program.

The TAG program was created when it became clear the district’s service area needed a program for its more talented and gifted students.

The program will be open to K-8 students, and applicants must meet certain criteria.

The curriculum will include science, math, and project-based learning (PBL) through the Texas Education Agency. The program has a capacity of 400 students, with specific set numbers for each grade level.

“We’re going to cater to the students so that they can use all of those skills that they have because when you talk about talented and gifted, it’s not necessarily academic,” Smith told DX. “In our environment, if they excel in engineering, or STEM, or art or math — and that’s our goal is for them to determine what their niches are and enhance those skills, allowing them to flourish in that area. We don’t want to stifle that growth. We can push them to excel further in their area of expertise.”

Staff at STEAM Academy were required to complete “30 Gifted and Talented hours.” They will also undergo PBL training, cross-curricular training, and differentiated instruction.

Last week, a community block party was held to raise awareness for the program and inform students and parents. Smith said the event was a big success, allowing students to tour the campus and get excited about potentially being accepted.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the students flourish, just to see that on their faces. Because a lot of times those students don’t have that opportunity,” Smith told DX. “Those are students who typically ask the why — ‘Why is it I have to do this? This is easy to do.’ They’ve mastered it so quickly, and so to be able to see them excel and the glow in their eyes when the light bulb comes on. That’s what’s most rewarding for me.”

Smith hopes that the campus will grow beyond its capacity of 400 students and eventually require a waitlist to be accepted.

“We ‘re doing some amazing things,” Smith noted.

The campus’s student council was recently nationally recognized. It is the only campus in the district with an elementary and middle school National Honor Society.

“We celebrate the wins and things that they are doing here on campus, and it’s almost like a hidden treasure,” Smith said.

Although the application deadline for the new program was originally listed as this Friday, Smith said that applications will continue to be accepted as the program has not reached capacity yet. She encourages those interested to apply as soon as possible.

To apply for the program or learn more about the criteria, click here.

DeSoto ISD has been struggling academically for years, with only 32% of students scoring at grade level on their STAAR exams during the 2021-2022 school year. Still, the district’s graduation rate that school year managed to beat out Dallas ISD, where nearly 20% of students in the graduating Class of 2022 failed to earn a diploma in four years despite the hard work of the district’s talented educators.

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