Andrew Harmon



Fighting to be Gifted

What it means to be labeled as a Gifted a Student in America

By Clifton Culpepper

There was a Buffalo Soldier in the heart of America,

Stolen from Africa, brought to America

Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival


Buffalo Soldier

-Robert Nesta Marley 1980



 My son was labeled in the womb as “at risk”.  My wife and I were advised by (well meaning) staff members at John Hopkins Hospital of our “options” and if we were capable of making the social or financial commitment to the issue we were facing.  We, a young black couple, were introduced to (bombarded with) mountains of statistics linking low birth weight babies and the higher risk of infant mortality among African Americans.  Laid before us was a deluge of factoids of survival rates of premature birthed babies (Preemies), and a host of post birth complications.  Our decision was easy…we wanted our child.

Our “Preemie” was born weighing in at a bolstering 1040 grams (2.76 lbs.) well below the "predictor label" of 2,500 grams, or 5.5 pounds, indicating the chances that our newborn will not graduate high school on time, or more then likely he later would be enrolled in special education or classified as learning disabled.

We labeled our son Ngozi (from the Igbo tribe in Africa meaning blessing).  A preemptive life plan was devised to battle any labels of ignorance.  With never a doubt in my mind that he was gifted, the challenge would be making the world see what I knew.  Every school year without fail and to no avail, I lobbied his school officials to place him in their gifted programs.

17 years later he stands just shy of 6 feet tall, 170 lbs. never had a health problem, no behavior problem, and no mental (other than just being a teen age boy) problem.   With a 3.59 GPA, 2 year starting high school quarterback, national track and field competitor, fluent in Spanish, business owner, named teen entrepreneur of the year, National Honor Society this, and National Honor that…but never…ever…labeled challenged.  Upon his entrance into high school we received a letter from his school district congratulating us on our son being identified as one of their “gifted students”.  Most days I just smile to myself and ask….what took you so long!


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