Dear ___,

My name is M.J. Bauer, and I am a senior in high school in St. Louis, MO. I try to be a conscientious citizen—I recently turned 18, and so I registered to vote just days ago. I am a National Merit Scholar, a National Science Foundation Scholar, and an alumna of the 2000 Missouri Scholars Academy (MSA). It has been my great fortune to live in a state with excellent education programs like the gifted programs—PROBE and Enrichment—in my school district; Saturday School, a program for preschool-age children; the STARS (Students and Teachers As Research Scientists) Program at UMSL; and MSA. I am concerned, however, with a recent proposal that concerns the future of MSA and other programs which have fomented my intellectual growth. I realize that you are occupied with many weighty matters, but I believe that there is a matter of some importance that may or may not have specifically been brought to your attention as of yet. Because you are my representative, and also because of your affiliation with the state committees on Elementary and Secondary Education and Education Appropriations, I believe that you are the correct person to address regarding this matter.

Today I learned of a bill that has been introduced by Rep. Chuck Graham to the Missouri State Legislature regarding Missouri's education budget. The proposed bill calls for budget cuts in many of Missouri's "extra" education programs, including the Missouri Scholars Academy and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy. I understand that the proposed cuts are seen as a solution to a budget deficit currently being experienced in Missouri's state government. It has been said that, because the cut will merely lower the number of students that will be allowed to participate in the Academy each summer from 330 to 150-175, it will not be particularly detrimental to Missouri's gifted student population in any major way.

However, I beg to differ. Any major change in the number of students allowed to partipate in the Academy will bring a corresponding shift in the atmosphere and capabilities of the Academy. I am concerned that it may also create a system for selection that unfairly eliminates many qualified students. The current number of students, 330, seems to be excellent in many ways. It ensures that a reasonable number of intelligent students are given the opportunity to partake of the incredible opportunities at MSA, and also gives the program a "community" feeling that is rarely experienced during other summer programs. Currently, many students in the program are selected from rural areas, not merely the large communities surrounding St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, and Springfield, but I fear that with a limited number of spots, some of these students would not get the opportunity to participate.

Of course, you may have asked yourself, Why does this girl care so much about the fate of a program she has already completed? Well, I can honestly say that Missouri Scholars Academy was the definitive experience of my high school career. Before I attended MSA I had no real conception of how wide my horizons truly were; that is, I did not always look beyond the daily morass of high school life to see the opportunities that exist in Missouri and the rest of the world. This may begin to sound like a corny testimonial, but MSA truly opened my eyes to what there was to love in life. I developed a renewed interest in completing my education and began to search for a personal philosophy after my journey to the Academy. I doubt that I would have achieved so much in such a short time during high school without the guidance of the teachers and other scholars at MSA.

At MSA, I met people with whom I could connect to on a level beyond that of everyday interaction, people who I can call "kindred spirits" because their intelligence allowed them to communicate so fluidly. I made friends there who I keep in touch with to this day, even though they live halfway across the state. There is a comfort in knowing that in virtually any town I might visit in Missouri, there will probably be at least one scholar in it. I believe that many others would agree with my assessment of MSA as a life-changing experience—just the other day I exchanged correspondence with an alumnus from the early '90s who has taken on a new job in the Middle East. I've never met this man in person, but I got in touch with him through the online MSA Alumni group, and we delved into a discussion regarding the impact of a multi-lingual environment on child development.

Many other Missouri Scholars that I personally know are now involved in incredible things. Last summer I did research in behavioral science at SLU through the STARS Program (which I was recruited for through Missouri Scholars Academy), earning top honors for my research paper. It turned out that my lab partner was another 2000 Scholar, with whom I found an instant connection because of our similar experiences at the Academy. Also, one day I realized that a Ph.D. candidate in the lab possessed an MSA keychain—I struck up a conversation with her and gained an excellent connection in the lab. MSA provides one with a network of potential friends and helpers for the rest of one's life, because nearly everyone who attends the Academy understands the importance of maintaining the connections.

I understand that many things must be taken into consideration with a proposal of this nature, yet I also hold hope that something can be done to ameliorate the budget deficit without such drastic measures. I realize that a mere letter is not a magic bullet, and as such will not immediately solve complex problems, but I am informing you of my point of view, one shared by many within the MSA community. I hope that it may make a difference when the time comes to make a choice. Finances are difficult to manage in these times of change, and opportunities often fall by the wayside. I hope that you will undertake a fair and equitable review of the value of Missouri's "extra" educational programs before a decision is reached. The future of Missouri's best and brightest lies in your hands, and I hope for the best in this matter. If you have any questions about statements contained herein, do not hesitate to contact me immediately for clarification. Thank you for your time and concern.


M.J. Bauer