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KITES Summer School Focusing on Careers

Space aliens landed at Ozark West Elementary School and are threatening to take over summer school. It's up to the KITES students to solve puzzles about different college and career options on planet Earth to escape the alien takeover.

This is just one of many examples of how students in Ozark’s KITES — Kids In Talented Educational Studies — program are spending their days during summer school.

“I like the group. Everyone is kind of sarcastic and laughs together. We have fun,” student Lucas Edwards said. “We play challenging games that really test your thought and memory.”

KITES is the gifted program for students in elementary school. The group typically meets weekly with their respective grade levels, but during summer school, all elementary grade levels meet together daily in one building.

“I like that KITES is every day in the summer. KITES is unique for most schools and it’s kind of a break, yet you’re learning at the same time,” said Brimmer Teague, who is going into the fifth grade. “I like the fact that it helps me escape from my modern-day life and be around kids who are like me.”

Each year, KITES summer school offers a different theme, with this year’s focus on careers. Students are learning about job skills, career paths, critical thinking and cooperative learning by completing daily challenges, such as the puzzles they had to solve to prevent the alien takeover.

“I wanted to focus on giving students some ideas and letting them know things they are interested in are things they can follow through with in a career,” teacher Stefanie McKoy said about this year’s theme. “So if you are interested in reptiles, you can follow that passion.”

McKoy is exposing students to different careers with visits from speakers that include a graphic artist, an engineer, a beekeeper, a farmer, an artist, an EMT, a zookeeper, and even an author and philanthropist

“Sometimes I feel like the kids are put under pressure to be these big successful careers. But if you want to be a beekeeper, go be a beekeeper,” she said. “I want them to understand that there is a vast variety of careers available.”

And while the students enjoy learning about different careers, they also enjoy being around other students who excel academically.

“I really enjoy KITES because it’s a place you can get away and be with people who actually get you,” student Ryleigh Berryessa said.

McKoy said KITES not only focuses on academics, but the social and emotional needs of students. It is a program designed to push and challenge students to reach their highest potential and overcome obstacles.

“KITES is an essential program for our students,” she said. “It’s a program of uniquely-talented students who need unique and individualized instruction.”

Students use a Braille career decoder to solve one of the daily challenges in summer school KITES class.