Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DU’s Ricks Center celebrates 25th anniversary

More than 250 students, parents and school staff helped DU’s Ricks Center celebrate its 25th anniversary on Friday, Sept. 25, with sustainability in mind.

Students planted bulbs, vines, trees and shrubs in the center’s courtyard; painted rocks in the style of the book Only One You; and created mobiles made from silver-colored recycled household items to commemorate the anniversary. Chancellor Robert Coombe also met with students during the celebration.

Norma Lu Hafenstein, Ricks Center founder and director, says the celebration was “an integrated learning experience that acknowledges not only each individual student, but our role in the larger community, advocating sustainability and concern for our future.”

As a doctoral student at DU in 1984, Hafenstein was one of the organizers of a summer program for gifted preschoolers as part of the University’s School of Education. The summer program was so well-received it grew into a year-round school serving preschool through 8th grade.

“As we begin our next 25 years, we will continue to encourage broader community awareness and personal commitment,” Hafenstein says.  “We wanted our celebration to reflect the same kind of learning our students experience every day.  We can’t just have a party – we’re having a learning experience with ice cream.”

Hafenstein says more than 300 students have graduated from Ricks over the past quarter century and hundreds more have participated in its programs.

“Our alumni have attended the most prestigious secondary schools and universities in the country and have gone on to be change agents in our world, in roles ranging from rocket scientists to educators, physicians to film directors, working in our local community and around the world,” Hafenstein says.

She notes the center’s programs, which have been a model for other gifted and talented programs around the country, are administered by “an extraordinary staff that actively engages and addresses the emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, physical and social needs” of gifted children.

The silver anniversary will be celebrated throughout the year with events including parent education workshops, an alumni celebration, community outreach activities and a conference focused on highly gifted children.

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