Jon was a scholar/athlete. A talented football player with a critical mind, he embraced his dual
identity as a scholarly athlete and an athletic scholar—even when others pushed him to choose
one or the other. He worked smart and hard, thought critically on and off the field, and set high
goals for himself. He dreamed of attending an Ivy League college, one that held top tier status in
both STEM research and athletics. He also distinguished himself over other student-athletes who felt
compelled to prioritize their academic ability over athletic identity or vice versa.
Fostering the Multi-Potential Child
Jon displayed what many gifted children do: multi-potentiality.1
The multi-potential child excels in two or more different
fields, be it football and math, painting and English, or chess
and chemistry. These multiple interests, if not fostered appropriately,
could disadvantage the gifted student, who may find it
hard to choose or focus his many passions and talents.
Parents, positioned as a child’s first teacher, inaugurate the
nurturing process of the gifted student’s multiple interests,
talents, and potential.2
With careful planning and support
systems, parents can promote their gifted child’s dual identity,
while also fostering academic excellence, talent development,
and maximizing potential.
In Counseling Gifted and Talented Students, Nicholas
Colangelo suggests that parents, educators, and counselors help
high-ability individuals with multiple talents in four ways:3
Some gifted students have very focused career interests at an
early age while others do not develop them until late high school
or start of college.4 Research does not indicate an advantage to
However, for those students who are ready to seriously pursue
dual interests, how can parents help map out a plan of action
so that their child will not have to sacrifice one interest for the
other? The chart on page 20 offers sample scope and sequence
planning for talent development in areas as diverse as athletics
and global awareness.
This is a scaffolded approach to supporting your multi-potential
child that provides information and resources from middle
school to the end of high school. This type of approach provides
your child with a long-term plan and provides him confidence
in his dual talents, enabling him to advocate for himself in an
educational environment that often does not support the dual
identity of the multi-potential child. In fact, many children are
labeled “underachievers,” when in fact they are uniquely skilled
at prioritizing sometimes competing priorities.
Sample Scope & Sequence for Talent Development
This chart is intended to provide sample ideas of ways to nurture talent development from middle school through high
school in students with multiple interests. It’s important to remember that all gifted students are not alike. Parents need
to know their child and their child’s capacity to juggle multiple areas of interest. If your student exhibits signs of anxiety
or stress, it may be time to reconsider and readjust.
Jon’s Story: A STEM-Scholar Athlete
Jon was born and raised in the southeastern part of the United States
where the culture of sports takes on a life of its own. Jon’s athletic
identity development is evident as far back as 3 months old in baby
pictures taken with football props.
As early as elementary school, Jon was referred to by his teachers as
a leader and academically unique in his approach to learning. They
noted his particularly high math problem-solving skills and creative
Jon’s parents complemented his formal educational experience
with a scaffold approach to identity and talent development. In
the early years, academic and athletic development was a vehicle for
play and bonding time. As Jon grew, they used both for skill development
to nurture character building, leadership, and critical thinking.
They discovered that the brain fascinated Jon, and the way people
rationalize thinking and decision-making. They found authentic ways
for him to research and explore college majors and career choices;
he competed in essay competitions related to career awareness; and
they incorporated college visits and academic sightseeing into family
In middle school, his parents limited Jon to two extra-curricular activities
each season. Summers were spent exploring additional topics
and subjects that interested him through elective course enrollment
and study abroad trips.
Going into high school, Jon had mapped out all of the appropriate
courses he felt he needed to prepare for a major in neuroscience or
biopsychology. His football teammates referred to him as the “mad
scientist,” describing how his academic and athletic identity seamlessly
Jon’s junior year was a critical one with entrance exams, scholarship
applications, and athletic camps. Jon’s day began at 5:30 a.m. with
football conditioning. After a full day of classes, he went to football
practice followed by long hours of completing homework, studying,
and/or working on projects. In addition, on the weekends he decided
to work a part-time job as a “scare” actor for a local theme park. He
mastered important skills such as time management, organization,
and prioritization. That year he
was named a Dr. Martin D. Jenkins
Scholar by the Special Populations
Network of the National Association for
Gifted Children (NAGC).2
He was named
Defensive Player of the Year for his high
school, and ranked as the #3 Linebacker
in the region.
Jon ended the first semester of his
senior year with a list of his top three
college choices that included an Ivy
League school, a military academy,
and a prestigious, private college.
Just in time for National Letter of Intent
(NLI) day, or Likely Letter as referred by
the Ivies, Jon secured early admissions
to commit to the tier one college of choice
(where he later earned the league’s Defensive
Player of the Week during his freshman year).
Jon lettered all four years in high school varsity football and track,
and graduated in the Top 10% of his class, having developed a
very diverse academic portfolio that included magnet program
enrollment; study-abroad and global studies; summer enrichment
courses; dual-enrollment, joint-enrollment, gifted and AP courses;
credit by exam; and a state-endorsed career pathway in career, technology,
agriculture, and engineering (CTAE). Familiar with service
learning theory and the benefits of vertical mentoring,3
encouraged him to apply what he learned in class and his talents to
serve his community by developing a tutoring program for athletes,
an SAT/ ACT prep program, and a program that promoted pre-teen
awareness about distracted and drunk driving.
Jon continues his education with over half a million dollars earned
in academic scholarships to fund his pursuit of undergraduate,
master’s, and doctoral-level degrees. Jon’s story confirms that if you
are athletically talented, academically gifted, and well-rounded in
potentiality, you can take your place among the best.
1 Collins, K. H., & Grantham, T. (2014). Creative mindfulness in STEM talent development. Gifted Education Press Quarterly, 2(3), 10–14.
2 More about Dr. Martin Jenkins Awards Scholar Program and the application process: https://www.nagc.org/get-involved/ nagc-networks-and-special-interest-groups/networks-specialpopulations/dr-martin-d
3 More on benefits of vertical and hybrid mentoring strategies: Collins, K. H., Price, E., Hanson, L., & Neaves, D. (manuscript accepted). Consequences of stereotype threat & imposter syndrome in STEM: The journey from STEM-professional to STEM-educator for four women of color.
Multi-Potentiality in Gifted,
Effectively nurturing multiple interests, multi-potentiality,
and the dual-identity of the gifted, scholar/athlete means
creating an environment that allows her
to maximize her gifts and talents.
In doing so parents, parents are
Lauenstein, R., & Galehouse, D. (2017). The making of a student athlete (14th ed.). Sunnyvale, CA: Advisor Press
Kristina Henry Collins, Ph.D., is an assistant
professor of talent development at Texas State
University. Dr. Collins has over 20 years of
experience with STEM teaching and leading in
Title I, rural, and community-based K-20 educational
settings. Her research focuses on multicultural
gifted education, STEM identity development,
and culturally responsive STEM talent
development. She was the 2011 recipient of the
Mary Frasier Equity and Excellence Award presented
by Georgia Association of Gifted Children for her work
in advancing educational opportunities for under-represented
students in gifted education. Dr. Collins currently serves
on the board of directors for Supporting Emotional Needs of the
Gifted (SENG) and holds both her Ph.D. and Ed.S. from the
University of Georgia.
1 Hebert, T. P. (2012). Understanding their challenges and honoring
their potential. In C. M. Callahan & H. L. Hertberg-Davis (Eds.),
Fundamentals of gifted education: Considering multiple perspectives (pp.
331–342). New York, NY: Routledge.
2 Collins, K. H. (in press). Unpacking SENG’s mission, vision, & values:
A framework and standard for comprehensive support of the gifted
across the lifespan. SENGvine Newsletter: Supporting the Needs of the
3 Colangelo, N. (2002, Fall). Counseling gifted and talented students.
Storrs, CT: National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
4 Rysiew, K. J., Shore, B. M., & Carson, A. D. (1994). Multipotentiality
and overchoice syndrome: Clarifying common usage. Gifted and
Talented International, 9(2), 41–46.
Rysiew, K. J., Shore, B. M., & Leeb, R. T. (1998). Multipotentiality,
giftedness, and career choices: A review. Journal of Counseling &
Development, 77, 423–430.
Copyright 2017 NAGC. Reprinted with permission of the National Association for Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org. No further reprints are permitted without the consent of NAGC.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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