The Pueblo Chieftan

Advanced learners get needed support

For advanced learners in the Pueblo area, there is now an organization to provide support, ideas and networking for students, parents and teachers.

The Pueblo Association for Advanced Learners (PAAL) became official Sept.1 after it was approved by the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT), of which advanced learners is the local affiliate.

It’s been a long process of putting together the group that President Kristyl Boies is excited about.

“This organization, really from the get-go, is to offer a place for parents and teachers to go as an advocacy source.

A place for comfort and support and for advanced learners to come together,” Boies said.

“It used to be that if someone had an issue, they didn’t know where to turn.

“Now, with this organization, you can contact someone and say, ‘I have this situation,’ and we, as a network, can talk to somebody else with a specialty or help out. I might not know, but someone else will,” she said.

The idea came back in 2010 when the president of CAGT asked Boies if she might consider starting an affiliate in Pueblo because there’d never been such a resource.

She began talking to others, through word-of-mouth, email and networking and got “nothing but positive feedback.

Teachers and parents were hungry for help and information.

“It’s not that our teachers aren’t great, but it’s the matter of understanding the need of an advanced learner,” Boies said.

“And parents might have a high-energy gifted child and just don’t know where to start.”

Together, a small “but very determined and passionate” group of local people started writing the bylaws and creating advanced learners.

The organization is in the process of being approved as a nonprofit organization group, as well.

Boies said there will be regular meetings for members to come together, and also events — possibly quarterly — to help bring the students together.

She said ideas for those get-togethers include a game tournament, panel discussion with a notable gifted person and more.

The advanced learners held a kickoff event in September at the Rawlings Library to help introduce the official organization to the community and continue gathering support and interest.

“The big question that came out of that kickoff was the same we’ve been asking — now where do we go?” Boies said.

“And that’s the beauty of it, is that we get to shape and evolve it into what it needs to be with everyone’s input.”

Although membership will largely be Pueblo and Pueblo West-area people, Boies said she’s already been contacted by other southeastern Colorado communities and that advanced learners will help serve whoever they can reach.

“I think the number one thing we’ve heard from parents is that their (advanced learners) need more challenges,” Boies said.

She noted there have already been discussions about camps or classes outside of school where the students can find the enrichment they need.

Teachers, Boies said, are interested in ideas and resources to help gifted children while staying within their strict budgets.

“For the longest time, I felt like an island, like I was one of the only people that cared this much.

“But now I’m finding that there are so many people — right here in my neighborhood and community — that feel the same way and want what I want and love this cause as much as I do,” Boies said.

“I can get inspiration from right here in my hometown.”

The next PAAL event will be Nov. 13 at the Rawlings Library.

More information is available at the website www.pueblo advancedlearners.org (still being constructed), by emailing ourpaal@gmail.com, or at the organization’s Facebook page by searching PAALofCO.

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