“It’s time for us to go to Challenge,” Julie said to me. “We’ll see you later.”
“Sure!” I said, sounding more cheerful than I felt. As Julie and Wendy headed down the hallway, I sighed and headed in the other direction to the library.
“Challenge” was the name of the gifted program at the middle school. Sixth Grade Challenge met every Friday during the last period of the day. Those of us who weren’t in Challenge had Library Skills class instead. I loved to read and loved the library, but Library Skills was so boring!
It seemed that all we ever did was worksheets about things such as the Dewey Decimal system.
In Challenge, Julie and Wendy were doing pretty neat things. They always talked about it during lunch. They were learning computer programming and other things, such as how to tell if you’re right-brained or left-brained.
It always sounded a lot more fun than Library Skills. Plus, I was the only one in our group of friends who wasn’t in Challenge, so sometimes I felt left out.
But even worse than being bored on Fridays, or feeling left out among my friends, was the weird feeling that I wasn’t where I should be.
How come I wasn’t in Challenge? I hung out with the “smart” people. I loved to read. I made straight A’s. I was in the advanced middle school math program.
Shouldn’t someone like me be in the gifted program? What made my friends “gifted” while I wasn’t? We all seemed pretty much the same to me.
“Do you think I’m gifted?” I asked my parents at dinner that night.
“Well, we like you!” my dad joked.
“I don’t mean that,” I said. “My friends are all in the gifted program at school, and I wish I was too.”
“How do you get in the program?” my mom asked.
I frowned. “I’m not sure. They’ve been in it ever since we started middle school. I think Wendy once told me that if you seemed smart, they gave you a special test to take to get in. But I’m smart!”
“You’re very smart,” my mom agreed.
“Well,” my dad said, “what are you going to do about it?”
“Do about it?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” he went on, “if you think you should be in this program, which people do you talk to about it? How do you get to take this special test?”
I knew whom I would talk to. Mrs. Lucas was the Challenge teacher, and she was another reason I wished I was in Challenge. She sounded really nice, and she was always smiling every time I saw her. But she didn’t know me at all, and even though I was a good student, talking to teachers always made me nervous. I couldn’t just walk up to a teacher I didn’t even know and ask to be in her special program!
“Oh no, I couldn’t do that!” I said. “But one of you could! You could call the school and ask them how I could get in!”
My parents glanced at each other.
“Yes, we could . . .” my mom said.
“But if it’s important to you, I think you’re the one who needs to handle it,” my dad went on.
“Oh . . . oh no, I couldn’t,” I said quickly. “I’d be too nervous. I’m just not good at that kind of thing.”
“You might be surprised,” my dad said. “God can give you the strength to do a lot of things if you ask Him.”
I didn’t say anything.
When I got to school the next morning, I saw Mrs. Lucas in her usual spot in the hallway. I really wanted to talk to her, but just seeing her made me nervous.
Lord, I prayed silently, this is not the type of thing I’m usually very good at, but I know I can do it with Your help.
I gulped a couple of times, and then went up to Mrs. Lucas. “Um . . . hi,” I said. “I was wondering, uh . . . how do you get into Challenge?”
Mrs. Lucas smiled. “Well, basically, if your standardized test scores are in the top 20 percent, we give you an IQ test to see if you qualify.”
What I had to say next was even harder. “Well, I don’t understand why I’ve never taken the IQ test, because my test scores have always been high.”
Mrs. Lucas paused for a moment, and then asked, “What’s your name?”
“Jenny McCoy . . . Well, I’ll pull your file and see if you’ve somehow been overlooked.”
“Um, thank you,” I said. I felt like an idiot, but I was still glad I had said something.
* * *
Within two weeks my parents got a letter in the mail from the school board saying my test scores qualified for testing into the gifted program. I needed to report to the school district office sometime during the next month to take an IQ test.
“I’m so proud of you!” my dad told me. “You were right, and you never would have known it if you hadn’t had the courage to speak up!”
A woman I didn’t know gave me the IQ test. She asked me what a lot of different words meant, and asked me to put together some puzzles. I had no idea if I did a good job on the test or not.
But then my parents received another letter. I had passed the test and was officially enrolled in Challenge!
I was so excited! Now I could do all the neat things my friends were doing. Within the next year I developed film, visited a solar home, learned BASIC computer programming, and discovered that I was right-brained.
I never would have done any of that if I had been too afraid to speak up. I’m so glad God gave me the courage I needed!
Illustrated by Jim Elston