Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer programs canceled

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Many teenagers had already packed for the three-week academic program. Some were en route. Sunny Chanel’s 16-year-old daughter was on a flight to the East Coast when Chanel noticed an email from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.

The teen’s program in Pennsylvania was suddenly canceled.

“She was devastated,” said Chanel, who was stunned that families were kept in the dark until after 3:30 p.m. Friday, less than 48 hours before the residential program began. Her daughter had left home in San Francisco with a 48-pound suitcase and high hopes. The girl’s father and her best friend, who was also attending, were traveling with her.

The email Chanel and other parents received Friday attributed the problem to lack of staffing. “The nationwide labor shortage affecting many industries has created conditions that make it impossible to deliver an experience that rises to the level of quality we expect for our families and programs,” it said.

Program officials said Sunday they were examining the reasons for the staffing issues and the belated notice to families. About 870 of the nearly 2,900 students enrolled in commuter or residential programs for CTY’s first summer session were affected, they said. The programs, which are run by Johns Hopkins, are at college campuses and other sites across the country.

Other summer school programs and camps have been scrapped or downsized this year for lack of staff amid a tight labor market and following an exhausting school year. But CTY stands out — a highly regarded 43-year-old program that fell apart for hundreds of students at the last minute.

CTY’s website calls the program a “world leader in gifted education since 1979.” Alumni include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Lady Gaga. Students must test into the programs, which are a mix of online, commuter and residential sessions for second- to 12th-graders.

Virginia Roach, executive director of CTY, said in a statement that families were offered full refunds of tuition and travel costs, and she apologized to “every child and parent who expected more.”

“I fully recognize that these options do not make up for the disruption this has created for parents who planned their summers around our programming, and the extreme disappointment for students who dedicated themselves to preparing for this opportunity,” she said. “The failure to notify families in a timely manner is wholly unacceptable.”

Students need summer school. Some districts can’t staff it.

Like Chanel, other parents had stories of disappointment and disbelief, some of them posted on a Facebook page with more than 240 members called “CTY screwed us 2022.”

Programs were canceled across a variety of topics, including biotechnology, poetry, ethics, psychology, genetics, neuroscience, engineering, the graphic novel and zoology.

Celia Brown, who lives in the Philadelphia area, said her 15-year-old son was supposed to be at an international politics program at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., starting Sunday — something he had been especially eager for after two summers when opportunities were diminished by the pandemic.

“These kids have been through so much these past few years with schools being open and closed,” she said, “and this was another disappointment.”

CTY sites include Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.; Haverford College in the suburbs of Philadelphia; Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and the University of California at Santa Cruz. Fifteen of the 21 sites were affected by cancellations.

Lucy Cummings, who lives in D.C., said her 14-year-old son was looking forward to attending a residential philosophy program at Franklin and Marshall for three weeks, which cost more than $5,200.

“They should have told us and made the call a lot earlier,” she said, adding that she and other families have been scrambling to find other academic experiences for their children. “It’s not like the professor just got covid.”

Other parents said they initially thought the email might have to do with the coronavirus.

“I thought it was a hack at first, or that someone had made a rash decision and would reverse it soon,” said Mason Kalfus of Virginia, whose 14-year-old son Jeremy had been signed up for the philosophy program. On Saturday, he said, he found a June 23 post on LinkedIn that suggested the program was still looking for employees who would start June 22. “It’s insane,” he said.

Jeremy was equally disappointed. “I was really bummed,” he said.

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