DECATS’s teachers have been teaching gifted and talented students curricula since the 1990s. DECATS is an acronym for the DeBusk Enrichment Center for Academically Talented Scholars, signifying the program’s vital ties to the DeBusk Foundation.
The foundation was co-founded by Manuel DeBusk and his wife, Edith DeBusk, on March 5, 1979 to offer financial resources to academically gifted students. Growing up, the DeBusk family were both gifted students, and they wished to offer assistance to like-minded scholars.
Manuel DeBusk entered university at Wayland Baptist College, now known as Wayland Baptist University, at the age of 14 and graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Texas Technological College, now known as Texas Tech University, at the age of 18. Mr. DeBusk then continued his education in law school at George Washington University and received his law degree at Southern Methodist University after moving to Dallas. Until he founded the DeBusk Foundation, Mr. DeBusk engaged in various political endeavors.
The foundation, however, did not start the DECATS summer programs at the program’s founding. Mr. DeBusk appointed Dr. Sue Francis from Hamilton Park Pacesetter School in Richardson and Dr. Diane Cooper from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Grand Prairie to lead the foundation’s expansions for educational development programs in the Dallas area. This team then worked on the foundation’s starting of the DECATS program. The goal of DECATS is for students to be challenged with their social, academic and leadership skills.
After years of development, DECATS started in Grand Prairie, Texas, at Immaculate Conception with Junior DECATS. Four years after it began, Junior DECATS progressed into Junior and Senior DECATS. The first Senior DECATS took place at St. Pius X. They still use the same selection criteria for admittance for both programs, Junior and Senior DECATS.
The DECATS program has expanded to different areas as well such as Florida and Ohio. The program in Texas, too, has grown to eight different schools.
Mrs. Shotland said that DECATS started with Diocesan schools, but they now accept students from public schools. They ask for nominations from Diocesan principals, but they will accept recommendations from others as well.
According to Mr. Solomon, the assistant director of DECATS, some of the first majors were Art/Music, Literature/Drama, Journalism, Science, Math and Social Studies. Some of the electives were Tessalations, Stage Combat and Improv. Mrs. Shotland’s son, Joe Shotland, said that in the past DECATS was bigger, crazier and more fun, but now it is more structured. Joe Shotland feels that, in general, DECATS students seem to respect the schools more than students did in the past.
Ninety-seven students attended the first Senior DECATS, but the program has grown over the years. The last few years, however, DECATS has decreased in enrollment due to more of the older students attending high school summer school. The 2015 enrollment is 232 scholars from 35 local schools and from grades seventh to ninth.
Written by: Therese A., Reporter