Announcing the TAMS Small Schools Scholarship

I’m proud to announce the creation and sponsorship of a new TAMS Alumni Association1 scholarship for incoming TAMSters: the Small Schools Scholarship. Like the other TAMS Alumni Association scholarships, this one covers the cost of the TAMS program charge. Unlike the others, this one is targeted towards students who attended a 3A2 or smaller school.

As a former student of a 3A school I know how limited the opportunities can be in schools of this size, particularly for schools in small towns. TAMS was a life-changing experience for me and I want to help others have that same opportunity.

I’m thrilled this year’s Small Schools Scholarship was awarded to Sarah Gutierrez, an outstanding candidate from a 3A school!3 Congratulations Sarah!

A hearty congratulations to all eight TAMS Alumni scholarship recipients! We, the TAMS alumni, wish you the best in these next two life-changing years.

1 I am not formally associated with the TAMS Alumni Association beyond being a very strong supporter of their mission — I don’t speak on their behalf.

2 3A is a designation of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) organization in Texas. Its primary use by that organization is grouping schools of similar sizes for both academic and athletic competition within the state. Sizes range from 1A (smallest) to 6A (largest).

3 While I sponsored the scholarship this year, I did not participate in the selection of the winner.

TAMS Scholarship challenge: $31k raised!

Three weeks ago I threw out a challenge to raise money for the TAMS Alumni Association Scholarship Forever Fund to enable students of any financial means to attend TAMS. Together we raised $31,029.15!

This is fantastic  – way to go TAMSters!

A hearty thank you to everyone who donated! And a shout out to Kim Cooper, the TAMS Alumni fundraising chair, for managing the challenge with no advanced notice whatsoever.

tan, sec, cos, sin,
Solid, liquid, plasma, gas,
TAMS is gonna kick your ass!

Matching $10k TAMS Scholarship Forever Fund donations

TAMS was the best thing that has ever happened to me and I want to help make it possible for other Texas high school students to have that same experience. Between now and midnight December 30th 2015, I will match any donation made to the TAMS Alumni Association Scholarship Forever Fund up to the first $10,000.

No need to tell me about it, the friendly folks at the TAMS Alumni Association can let me know the totals — just make a donation on the website. And, of course, it’s total gravy that donations are tax deductible.

Interested in joining me in matching funds either in series or parallel? I’m happy to coordinate, just let me know.

Why the Scholarship Forever Fund? Because I’m taking the strategic, long-term view. Building an endowment to fund scholarships enables students of all economic backgrounds to attend TAMS as inexpensively as possible year after year. (On the tactical front I am also fully-funding one scholarship a year starting next year, but that’s for a later post.)

We have 3 weeks, lets get to it!

Casey Peel, TAMS class of 1997

TAMS: the best thing that has ever happened to me

TAMS, the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, is an advanced placement program at the University of North Texas where I finished my junior and senior years of high school while simultaneously acquiring 72 hours of college credit. It’s a relatively small program that accepts ~187 students a year from Texas high schools. All 374 students1 live in the same dorm on the UNT campus and take roughly the same classes, including honors biology, chemistry, physics, pre-cal, and calculus among others.

Your first thought is probably “that must have given you a leg up academically”. And while you are correct, that’s not the most important thing that I acquired from the program. The most important thing was the close circle of friends that have changed my life for the better.

I grew up and went to high school in Littlefield, a small farming community northwest of Lubbock in the Texas panhandle. My sophomore class had about 100 people in it — people I had known all throughout my academic career. I wasn’t the smartest person in my class (although if asked at the time, I might have arrogantly said I was) but I was hands-down the nerdiest. Like many small towns in Texas, the focus of the school was on football, not on academics, and I was no jock. While I had friends, I didn’t really feel like I belonged.

TAMS changed all of that. I went from having 99 classmates who were unlike me to 373 classmates who were very like me. I went from feeling like one of the smartest people in school to feeling like the dumbest. I learned some very much needed social skills and was challenged academically like never before. It was exhilarating, overwhelming, and the best thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life.

I made a core group of friends that I cherish to this day: Janice, Matt, Jenny, John, Shaun, Jodi, Stona, and Karen. We’ve helped each other through rough times, celebrated great times, and stayed in touch despite the years and being far-flung across the US and the globe. Somehow, we even manage to have mini-reunions and got all 9 of us together in 2013:


Without TAMS and these friends, my life would be far different and far, far worse. And while AP classes and the like can help with the academic leg up, they can’t replace the camaraderie and community that a program like TAMS provides.

Many states have programs like TAMS; check out the Wikipedia entry for the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology for many of them. If you know a bright, socially-awkward high school freshman or sophomore interested in STEM fields, encourage them to seek out similar opportunities — it might just change their life.

1 187 students/year at a 2/year program = 374 students enrolled in a year.