The year before Sheyla Blumen (Peru ’11) left for her fellowship in the U.S., Peru only had one school that served the needs of highly gifted students throughout the entire country. In less than a decade, Sheyla has influenced public policy in her country so that gifted children from rural poverty conditions can learn from attending one of the 25 schools serving a total of 8,000 students now in place. Through her foundation, Mente Futura (translated as Future Minds), she is able to work directly with gifted learners from vulnerable conditions and their families and provide emotional support, creativity, skills and talent development.
Mente Futura is one of three recognized Associated Talent Centers of the European Council for High Ability in Latin America. Mente Futura is leading the way to bringing high quality educational opportunities for gifted young people throughout not only Peru, but the continent.
Sheyla talks about the ripple effect that investing in these particularly gifted students has on their communities. “They think about how to improve the living conditions of their own towns, their home towns. Many of them go back and never disconnect from their families…because family is very important here in Peru.” The students go on to study medicine, engineering and science, and think about ways to go home and increase living conditions for their families and loved ones living in poverty.
Sheyla believes that “education is the best tool to transform civilization,” and we see that through the investment in the gifted students. Her efforts have given her the recognition needed to become a general member of the International Association of Applied Psychology, one of the oldest associations in the world dedicated to psychology. She is the first and only Peruvian member to be elected. She is also a professor of psychology at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
Finding her voice as a woman in a patriarchal society was no easy feat, but she overcame this challenge thanks to the people she met while on fellowship. The greatest lesson she learned was how to “convince people to do what has to be done. Not for me, but for my country. I have a voice, and I need to use it.”
Sheyla persisted with her advocacy for gifted children through three different federal government administrations that wanted to shut down the schools, but instead influenced them to build ten more each time, overturning the criticism that the schools were seen as a service for the elite and against national egalitarian efforts. She was able to convince those in charge that every child deserves to reach their potential, and the answer isn’t to hold people back from learning, but to give them an opportunity to do so.
Now her objective is to expand this across her country to rural areas and across the Latin American and Caribbean region. Listen below for her story.