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The Reflection

Rumsha Sajid’s summer of personal and academic growth stimulated lasting success

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Senior Rumsha Sajid. Photo by Natalie Herson

Senior Rumsha Sajid poses during senior year. Photo by Natalie Herson

While the majority of students spend their summer vacations lounging  and generally refraining from academic focus, senior Rumsha Sajid dedicated her time to a more productive practice. Accepted into an elite program at the University of Michigan, called TASP, Sajid knew that the summer before her senior year would be one to remember.

A Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a six-week educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college. Each program is designed to bring together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. Telluride students, or TASPers, attend a seminar led by college and university scholars and participate in many other educational and social activities outside the classroom.

The Telluride Association seeks students from all kinds of educational backgrounds who demonstrate intellectual curiosity and motivation rather than prior knowledge of the seminar’s subject matter.  TASPers participate solely for the pleasure and rewards of learning with other intelligent, highly motivated students of diverse backgrounds.  The TASP offers no grades or college credit.

The opportunity for Sajid to immerse herself in such an enriching program came with it’s trials, though.

“The application process was very difficult,” Sajid said. “Four extensive essays (about 1500 words each) regarding one’s intellectual interests and future plans were required, and that didn’t include the other information regarding my high school career that was also necessary.”

The Telluride Association Summer Program Committee chooses approximately 140 applicants out of an estimated 1250 for interviews each year; Sajid’s interviewer was a TASP Alumni and Department Chair at Grand Valley State University. After further deliberation by a selection committee, combined with the evaluation of the specific interviewers, 64 applicants were finally chosen. These students receive full scholarships (and possibly a travel grant and stipend, if requested) to attend a seminar at either the University of Michigan or at Cornell University. Scholarships ensure that finances are never the deciding factor as to whether a student is able to attend TASP; the lengthy application and interview process is to assure that each applicant who is accepted can diversify the program as a whole.

With such financial generosity and strict applicant consideration, the program has to be selective in its final 64 juniors. TASP has a narrow 5.1% acceptance rate, but Sajid proved worthy of the honor. She was accepted in late May.

The theme of the 2013 program was Dark Phrases of Womanhood: Black Feminist Approaches to History and Literature, which Sajid highly anticipated.

On June 23, she packed left for her six-week stay at the University of Michigan’s own Telluride house.

“On weekdays, participants have seminar from 9am to 12pm,” Sajid said. “After seminar, we would walk back to the house and have lunch. Then, the rest of the day (and weekends) were at our own discretion. You could take a nap, explore the town, watch a movie, or do most anything that you wanted.”

“There were some community events that we could choose to do as a group as well. Amongst many other memorable group activities, there was a toga party, water balloon fight, and kayaking trips,” Sajid said.

While TASPers had the opportunity for freedom in their spare time, their experience also called for considerable dedication to class attentiveness and consistent work ethic to complete rigorous assignments.

“My seminar assigned anywhere from 30-200 pages of reading a night, and each week there was a 3-5 page paper due. Also, at the end of the program, we had to write a research paper with a minimum length of 8 pages, a 2 page reflection piece, and then submit an art project,” Sajid said.

The program concluded on August 3.

“Beyond improving my writing and speaking skills, I feel that TASP taught me patience, humility, and raised my critical consciousness,” Sajid said.  “I was exposed to powerful women writers who have changed the way I think about myself and the world. I learned that inquiry is essential to all intellectual pursuits, and that varied answers to how we see ourselves and society demand that we constantly challenge our own views in order to grow as individuals and as a community. Whether it be debunking naturalistic fallacy or stargazing a few seconds prior to sprinklers unexpectedly going off, I am sure that applying to TASP was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

For further information regarding the TASP program, visit this link. This second link contains a brochure for the program. Or, email Rumsha at 14SajidRu@gl.k12.mi.us with any questions about the application process or about her experience as a TASPer.

By Jamie Fleury




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