by Kalie Ammons
Vickie Barton grew up like many people in Wabash County: she helped out on her family farm.
“It’s on the 124, about three miles east of Southwood,” Dr. Barton explained fondly.
However, Barton’s passion did not lie with the farm, but with helping children meet their full potential.
The Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities is a residential two-year high school for gifted and talented juniors and seniors.
“It’s difficult to get people to understand that when you put a bunch of these kids together in the same space, the potential is immeasurable,” Barton told The Paper.
Students must apply during their sophomore year, a rigorous process. After writing multiple essays, keeping grades above average, getting recommendations from four different teachers and sometimes an interview process, students wait in anticipation for the phone call that will send them to live on Ball State’s campus for the next two years.
All courses offered are either college-prep or at the college level. Most are dual credit or AP, and many students leave with enough credits to cover their freshmen year of college.
Barton has some experience working with kids that veer from the norm. After earning her bachelor’s degree from Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan), Barton worked as a gardener for White’s Institute.
“They ended up hiring me full time to be their recreation director, which was a fantastic job because I got to live there, they fed me and they paid me to play,” said Barton.
After connecting with the students, Barton decided to invest even more time into their lives.
“We started what was called the Green House Group Home. I had six kids living with me in a house. These are kids who we knew when they left White’s were going to need to be independent and on their own. They lived there, got jobs, kept house and went to school at Southwood,” said Barton.
After her time with the Green House Group Home, Barton took a group of students to bike the perimeter of the United States.
“We left in February of 1985 and did different programs and service projects and then finished in November of that same year. It was about 11,500 miles,” Barton explained.
The group slept in a semi trailer that had been stacked with 50 bunk beds.
“We slept at churches or in the middle of fields or wherever we could find a place,” said Barton.
After her trip around the states, Barton earned her master’s degrees of Counseling Psychology and Physical Education & Health at Ball State University. She then counseled at Indiana Wesleyan before becoming the director of counseling at Anderson University.
“While I was there I heard about this school they were opening on Ball State’s campus for smart kids,” said Barton. Barton was recommended for a counseling position. “I turned it down the first time because I thought it was crazy, all of the things they wanted this person to do and they didn’t even have the school going yet.”
The beginning years of the Academy revealed many issues involving gifted and talented children. “They were kind of the forgotten students. Probably one of the biggest misconceptions about gifted kids is that is that they come from middle-upper income families, they have a mom and a dad and 2.2 siblings, that everything is fine and good they would never need a counselor on staff,” explained Barton.
The Academy works with kids from all backgrounds who want to further their education.
“We’ve had kids who have been in foster care, we’ve had kids who have had guardians, we have had kids whose parents are the most amazing parents in the world.”
Barton explains that the Academy tries to bring students to their true potential; pushing them harder than some schools might have the resources to do. Students are encouraged to study and work and shown that they should not be satisfied with “good enough.”
“Convincing people of what a school like this can do for gifted kids that feel often times like they have to dumb down, that they can’t let people know how smart they are, they can’t talk about physics or math or Shakespeare because people won’t get them, it’s a sight,” said Barton.
After working as the Director of Residential and Student Affairs, Barton made the leap to Executive Co-director, her doctorate in education qualifying her for the position.
The Academy does its best to accommodate all who wish to attend by knocking down some financial hurdles. In the beginning, everything was free excluding book rentals. Now, the Academy asks parents to pay for a fraction of the room and board fee.
“People who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, we don’t get any supplements from the government, that’s just a rule we made to make it easier for students and their families,” said Barton about aiding students in paying for the room and board. “There’s also that group of people that don’t quite qualify for reduced, but, gosh, they don’t have that much money either. We try to raise money to give to the kids to help. $120,000 has been given to students to help pay that bill.”
Dr. Barton is proud of her roots in Wabash, and especially grateful to her mother who “still lives on 124, still mows the grass, still takes care of her house and her home, and she’s 84 years-old.” There is no need to look any farther to find where the determination and kind heart of Dr. Barton came from. “Without her support in my life, I couldn’t possibly be where I am now.”