My name is Matt Flairty and I am a proud alum of the Pendleton County GATES Program. Throughout my schooling at Northern Elementary, and Philip Sharp Middle School I participated in a variety of educational opportunities that enriched my studies and helped instill a life-long appreciation for the arts. After graduating from Pendleton County High School I went on to earn a Bachelors in Political Science from the University of Louisville. While there I studied abroad in Beijing, China and interned at various times for local, state, and federal government. Today, I live in Berkeley, California where I am attending law school at the University of California, Berkeley. I will earn my J.D. this May and will begin practicing law in San Francisco at the international law firm Bingham McCutchen, where I will specialize in intellectual property litigation.
Although I participated in a variety of activities through Pendleton County's GATES program, one experience in particular still resonates. As part of Mrs. Lustenberg's Advanced Art program I remember being in the first class of ArtFest. ArtFest, was a unique approach to art education. Rather than merely creating the art, we studied the particular technique and then taught that technique to elementary school students. As a 7th Grader it was very empowering to be able to teach younger students. Crafting a pedagogy and putting it into practice proved to be a great method of learning. Nothing solidifies a subject in your mind like being able to teach it to others.
But the experience did not stop there. Instead, Mrs. Lustenberg embraced the unique nature of this program and encouraged us to present our methods to others. We studied different learning styles and illustrated how teaching is an effective form of learning. We then crafted a presentation so that we could share this useful method with other schools. This culminated in a presentation to over 200 teachers and professors at a nearby college. Much to my surprise, Mrs. Lustenberg allowed me to make the speech. As a nervous but eager 12 year old, the prospect of speaking in front of hundreds of adults was nerve racking yet exhilarating. Mrs. Lustenberg encouraged me throughout and the results showed! I gave a great speech and I was hooked. To this day I embrace every opportunity to speak to large groups (indeed it is often more of a challenge to get me to stop speaking!) This skill has proven vital in the study of law and will surely be an asset in my career as an attorney and as a hopeful future political leader.
In sum, Pendleton County's Gifted Programs afforded me some of my first opportunities to know that I could do great things. ArtFest empowered me to teach others. It solidified the idea that I can have efficacy--that what I do can reach people. I learned to embrace public speaking and gained confidence that has followed me throughout my education and my life. Although today I live far away from Pendleton County, I am immensely grateful for the opportunities my education presented, and count the GATES program as essential to my development.