Our mission is to support exceptionally gifted children and teenagers from all of Poland in order to enable them to fully develop their talents and scientific as well as artistic passions. The innovative, original aid programme conducted by the Fund for the last 36 years aims to support young people who cannot find opportunities to fully develop their potential in their local environment (both home and school). In helping them, we strive not only to create suitable conditions for broadening knowledge and enriching abilities, but also to strengthen their motivation and to build in the conviction that their own development can and should serve the society at large.
In the recruitment procedure we pay particular attention to the social conditions of the candidates. We try to help especially those who cannot get help in developing their passions either at school (due to poorly equipped labs making it impossible to conduct experiments – a common problem in Polish schools in smaller towns – or inadequately prepared teachers) or at home – when the parents have no funds available to pay for additional activities or to travel to bigger cities (visits to museums, theatres, science centres). Another important problem is the lack of support for the scientific ambitions of young people. Social pressure encourages them to choose professions which are perceived as a guarantee of future financial security. In Poland, career in research is not considered one of them. Participation in the Programme provides young people with an opportunity to work in excellent laboratories in the company of notable specialists, and thanks to contacts with their aspiring peers as well as the scientific community gives they gain the motivation to consider multiple career options despite the pressure from their environment. Many reports on the participation in the Programme state that it was this factor that proved crucial in the young person’s decision to become a scientist or a scholar.
The Gifted Children Support Programme aiding the exceptionally gifted, which has been conducted and developed by us for the last 36 years, is very well regarded by present and former participants as well as the academic and educational communities, which is why we want to continue to develop it further in the future. After finishing participation in the Programme, each participant fills in a survey in which they asses how important our help has been to them and what path of development they choose. This is how we know that almost 100% of them go to university (the only exceptions result from emergencies, such as a serious illness), and over 75% plan to pursue a research career. When they have already become university students, a large group of participants start their cooperation with the Fund as volunteers (about 45%), and over 70% declare they want to keep in touch with the Fund. The fact that an alumni association, Children of the Fund, was created last year, shows that these declarations are sincere.
The beneficiaries of our projects are selected participants of the Programme – students from Polish primary, middle and secondary schools. Over 40% of the Programme participants are young people from rural areas or towns below 20 thousand inhabitants. However, we want talent and drive for knowledge to be the main criteria of admission to the Programme, so that the camps and events organised by the Fund could lead to encounters between young people from different backgrounds.
The qualification procedure for the Programme takes place on the basis of applications submitted by the young people. The application should contain a description of the candidate’s interests and their work on developing them, results of their individual work (research, literary texts, visual artwork, a description of achievements in Polish and international competitions), as well as information concerning the environmental factors influencing development. Each year we receive about 1300-1400 applications. The applications are reviewed by specialists from various fields of science and art cooperating with us. Each year we accept over 500 students into the Programme.
Out of over 30 offers to participate in events prepared for the given school year, the young people accepted into the Programme choose those in which they are the most interested. There is no limit as to the number of activities a participant can choose. A qualification procedure takes place on the basis of the list of applications for the events. It takes into consideration factors such as the closeness between the profile of the activities and the interests of the candidate, the justification presented by the candidate and factors connected with the candidate’s background (family situation, school, the closest environment). Young people coming from backgrounds less supportive of their development are given priority in the qualification procedure. We are trying to reach particularly those who, due to geographical or financial reasons, do not have opportunities to go to festivals, science centres, open lectures or meetings with scientists, as well as exhibitions or concerts. These aspects are crucial in the qualification process when we face candidates of similar capabilities, interests and age.
The Polish Children’s Fund’s Programme aiding the exceptionally gifted young people has been developed and successfully conducted by the Fund for the last 36 years. We realise this aim by enabling the participants of our Programme to take part in science and art camps, seminars, workshops and research internships, conducted by the most notable Polish scientists and artists.
Above all, we try to reach people whose environment does not provide them with opportunities to contact anyone capable of helping them in broadening their knowledge and interests. Apart from providing a unique opportunity to work in the best laboratories and the best universities, the Programme also aims to form attitudes, especially natural curiosity, inquisitiveness and the desire to develop, as well as long-term motivation to work.
Two elements of the Programme are especially important in this respect:
- voluntary work – the staff conducting classes and activities, and taking care of the participants are all volunteers, starting from students and PhD candidates and ending with notable scientists and artists.
- tutorial system – during all activities (camps, seminars, research internships) the participants are supervised by tutors who help them in solving problems concerning factual knowledge as well as logistics. Most of them are former participants of the Programme, familiar both with the unique features of the Programme and the challenges faced by the gifted students. They receive additional training on care about their charges through special meetings and publications written for them (“A Tutor’s Assistant”). As a result, the participants of the Programme develop a sense of special responsibility linked to having exceptional talents and working on them. It can be seen in how the former participants become involved not only in the development of the Programme (as tutors or lecturers), but also in other forms of voluntary work, often to the benefit of their local community.
Participation in the Programme is a way of helping young people from backgrounds with low social and scientific capital, prone to losing the motivation to develop their passions and talents, especially those that are less typical or particularly demanding. Contact with their peers with similar interests or notable representatives of the domains of science or art they are interested in helps them to remain in their chosen path of development.