|Year of Entry: 1994||Age at Entry: 13||Hometown: Bartlesville, Oklahoma|
At age 13, I had lived in six different homes and had just one close friend. I had trouble relating to my peers, as I was used to the company of my parents and didn’t understand why I should censor my words or ideas in order to fit in. Despite supportive parents and a room full of books, I was profoundly unhappy.
Then I heard about the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin College. Adults who talked to me about it tended to focus on the intellectual challenges and the academic advantages. Those were present, of course. I was thrilled to escape the boredom I experienced in a public school where the gifted and talented program consisted of one hour per week of logic problems in the library. I genuinely enjoyed learning new things, but the pace of middle school meant that for every new idea there were weeks of waiting for other kids to “get it.”
The most important part of choosing the PEG program, for me, was the possibility of being surrounded by young women who could understand me. I wanted to escape the feeling of being alone every hour of the day I was in school. I hoped I would find at least one friend I could really be myself with. I dared to dream that in-class discussion would be lively and thought-provoking rather than another chance to be singled out by the teacher and resented by other students.
I made many friends in PEG. More importantly, being surrounded by intelligent young women helped me identify the profound arrogance with which I related to most people. Being surrounded by my peers changed how I related to everyone, and changed the course of my life in too many ways to measure. I made friends within PEG, but eventually within the traditional student body and the Adult Degree Program too. The friends I have made since college and my marriage of 10 years, I owe to being a PEG.
Skipping high school gave me an advantage in the job market and impressed my employers, certainly, and it has always been a neat topic at a certain type of party. I know that having PEG on my resume helped me land a prestigious position within the State Department. While I didn’t immediately find and stay in one career, I have had extra time to explore my options and find both personal fulfillment and contribution in my work. Moreover, having the experience of community that comes from living and learning with my peers, I build community around me wherever I go. I help people keep in touch with each other over miles and years or rebuild friendships that they thought were over.
The friends I made at Mary Baldwin are with me to this day. I went from the girl with just one friend to the woman who has been honor attendant at four weddings. I have multiple women who call me “best friend.” If I had to say how choosing PEG changed my life, I would say I am happier than that thirteen-year-old girl could have possibly imagined.