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Gifted Studies Summer Programs Offer Students Insight into Academics, Careers PDF Print E-mail
Friday, July 23, 2010
Contact David Tisdale, 601.266.4499   

Will Gust has channeled his keen interest in forensic science and criminal law into a solid knowledge base by taking courses on those topics offered in the University of Southern Mississippi’s Summer Program for Academically Talented Youth. The program is coordinated by the university’s Frances Karnes Center for Gifted Studies.

A 15 year-old high school student from Collierville, Tenn., Gust has participated in the three-week program for the last three years, taking its courses in forensic science and psychology. This summer he enrolled in its “Introduction to Criminal Justice” class, taught by Lamar County attorney Kathy Sones, a former prosecutor with the district attorney’s office.

Sones provides students in the course with an overview of the criminal justice process, including an examination of each stage of a criminal case from the investigation until sentencing and the parameters of the juvenile justice system, among other topics.

“I’ve really learned a lot about forensics, crime statistics, how criminal proceedings work and each aspect of the legal system,” Gust said. “The courses I’ve taken each summer have really given me a better idea of how the criminal justice system operates and how you work with people.”

Students in the class also heard from professionals in the field, including a representative of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics who brought encased illegal drugs and paraphernalia as exhibits for his presentation on narcotics investigations. They also visited the Southern Miss Police Department, where they heard a presentation about the process of booking a suspect in a criminal case.

“These presentations from law enforcement personnel really benefit the students from a practical standpoint,” Sones said, adding that her students also learned that they can prepare academically for careers in this field at Southern Miss through its criminal justice and forensic science programs.

The Summer Program for Academically Talented Youth is a cooperative effort with the Duke University Talent Identification Program, serving high-ability students currently enrolled in grades seven through 10 who come from across the country to participate. It provides a balance of educational, cultural and recreational experiences to participants during their stay at the university’s Hattiesburg campus.

Other courses include pre-calculus mathematics, human anatomy and physiology, creative writing, polymer science, political science, psychology and debate. Some are accepted for high school course credit.

Like other instructors in the program, Sones brings real-world experience to her classes.For her, it’s a joy to teach students who are motivated to learn. “The kids in the program are great. They want to be here,” she said.

Human anatomy and physiology, taught by North Forrest High School science teacher Travis Holifield, exposed students to information about the human nervous and musculoskeletal systems, the various blood types and hands-on activities such as laboratory dissection of sheep organs to gain a better understanding of their internal structure and function.

The students also took field trips to the Southern Miss School of Nursing and to Forrest General Hospital, where they viewed a heart catheterization. “They were exposed to a lot of different career paths in the medical field during these field trips,” Holifield said.

Ashley Thompson, 15, a student at Gautier, Miss. High School said Holifield’s class reinforced her plans for the future.  “When I came into the course, I wanted to be a pathologist,” she said. “Now I know that’s what I really, really want to do.”

More than 300 students have participated in the Center’s summer programs this year, which include its popular Summer Gifted Studies and Leadership Studies Programs. Other programming for youth includes the Saturday Gifted Studies Program and the Career Exploration Conference for Girls.

The Frances Karnes Center for Gifted Studies is housed in the university’s College of Education and Psychology. For more information on the Center’s programs, call 601.266.5236; online, visit

County attorney Kathy Sones talks to students about the finer points of the American justice system as part of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Summer Program for Academically Talented Youth. The program is for high ability students in grades seven through 10. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)

Travis Holifield discusses the various systems that make up the foundations of the human body in a human anatomy and physiology course offered through University of Southern Mississippi’s Summer Program for Academically Talented Youth. The program is for high ability students in grades seven through 10. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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