Where are our DeBusk students now?
These stories from former program participants tell how one of the foundation’s programs had an impact on his / her life and what he or she has done since participation. Click on one of our graduates’ names to learn more.
Dr. Albert Doskey
Submitted May 2017 by DeBusk Foundation
Out of 2.5 million graduating high school seniors, Albert Edward Doskey was one of 141 high school seniors selected for the 1998 Presidential Scholars Awards. In 1990, Mr. Doskey was a third grader when he first attended DECATS at the Immaculate Conception School in Grand Prairie, TX. He was Editor of the DECATS Star Telegram in 1991. He was a scholar in the Senior DECATS program at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas, TX, where he graduated in 1998. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Spanish Literature and a B.S. in Mathematics in 2002. He taught in small Catholic Schools for two years, then studied Latin and Philosophy at the University of Dallas. He earned an M.A. in Sacred Theology from Ave Maria University. In 2007, he began his PH.D. in Historical Theology at the Catholic University of America.
Video of Albert Doskey – June 2018
2018 UPDATE from Albert Doskey:
Ladies and Gentlemen, (El español sigue)
I was tempted to make this very long, but who would read it. I am striving for the “relatively” concise. On December 15, 2017, I successfully defended my dissertation “The Concept of Apostolic Tradition and Its Use in the Works of Melchior Cano.” Since then I have been implementing corrections and rereading the entire text, c. 500 pages, to catch as many mistakes as possible before the final electronic deposit of the manuscript. I have now deposited the manuscript. There is nothing more for me to do. On January 31, 2018, Catholic University of America will award me a Ph.D. in (Historical) Theology.
My dissertation was by far the most difficult academic endeavor in which I have ever engaged, and it was very costly in many, many ways. I thank all who helped. I worked hard, but it was not an effort without great support. I thank particularly those who have prayed for me. I ask that your prayers now be 1) of thanksgiving and praise and 2) for my salvation, a goal always more worthwhile than a dissertation. Especially in the last year, the dissertation caused me to neglect many people. Some are waiting for correspondence from me; some have forgotten that it is due from me. I will now begin slowly to rectify this.
I have tried to email this broadly but only to those who might have an interest. If you cannot even remember who I am, I am sorry for bothering you. I am sure that I have missed people; such is to be a slight against no one (or a special gift) but simply an oversight on my part. Some have claimed, honestly but still probably mistakenly, that they would like to read my dissertation. I give a link to a page where can be found my abstract and a sort of bio. (http://trs.cua.edu/news/news/December-2017/Doskey-defense.cfm); I also link to a .pdf of that page in case the link no longer functions by the time you click on it. If after the abstract, one is still interested, let me know, and I will send the introduction. In three months’ time, I should have my copy of my dissertation, but if someone were so (strangely!) desirous, I could send the .pdf for reading earlier than that.
Albert Edward Doskey (Gutiérrez)
Damas y Caballeros,
Me tentó la idea de escribir un mensaje largo, pero ¿quién lo leería? Estoy esforzándome escribir algo “relativamente” conciso. El 15 de diciembre 2018 exitosamente defendí mi tesis doctoral “El concepto de la tradición apostólica y su uso en las obras de Melchor Cano.” Desde entonces he hecho correcciones mientras releía el texto entero, c. 500 páginas, para identificar y corregir lo máximo posible errores antes del deposito final del manuscrito. Ahora ya he depositado ese manuscrito. No me queda más que hacer. El 31 de enero 2018, la Universidad Católica de los Estados Unidos me dará el Ph.D. en teología (histórica.)
Mi tesis doctoral era por lejos el intento académico más difícil que en toda vida me he dedicado, y me costó en varias, varias maneras. Les agradezco a todos que me han ayudado. Hice un gran esfuerzo por mi parte, pero no era un esfuerzo sin gran apoyo. Les agradezco a ellos
agradecimiento y alabanza y por mi salvación, un fin siempre más precioso que una tesis doctoral. Especialmente en el ultimo año, la tesis me causó que desatendiera a varios. Unos me están esperando alguna correspondencia; algunos ya se han olvidado de que a ellos la corresponde. Ahora lentamente empiezo a rectificarlo.
He intentado mandarles este mensaje ampliamente pero solamente a los que puedan tener algún interés. Si no puede acordarse de quién soy, le pido disculpas por molestarle. Estoy seguro que a unos no alcancé. Con tal falta no quería menospreciar a nadie (¡o darle regalo a nadie!); solo era un error. Unos me han dicho, honestamente pero probablemente por error, que quieren leer mi tesis doctoral. Les doy un enlace a una sinopsis en español (hay también un documento en inglés). Si después de la sinopsis a alguien le gustara leer más, le mandaría la introducción al texto. En el tiempo de tres meses debo tener una copia impresa de la tesis, pero si alguien quisiera, podría mandarle el texto como un .pdf antes de los tres meses.
Albert Edward Doskey (Gutiérrez)
Mr. Jason Eric A. Ancheta
Video of Jason Eric A. Enchata – June 2018
Submitted March 2015
It comes with great thanks, being able to say that I was given the privilege of being a part of DECATS for the last six summers. I do not know if my words would do it justice, but I have to try and sum up how much it has helped me from the very first time I walked in at orientation.
DECATS for me was not just an extension of school during the summer, or just another babysitting summer program. Stepping through the doors everyday carried a similar feeling to that of seeing family.
Starting in the summer following my third grade year, I began to see things in a very different way. Because they encouraged ‘outside of the box’ methods of thinking, I was able to begin honing traits I had never thought I had possessed until that point. They helped me learn to work with others more efficiently, lead by example and virtue, and begin to solve problems and think of things in more efficient ways than I previously had done. It also fostered my faith development by continuing to reinforce God throughout the program curriculum and procedures.
Going through the first four years as a scholar allowed me to go throughout the courses and begin exploring things that I now love to do on a day-to-day basis. Then participating in my fifth year as a scholar aide and in my sixth year as a junior mentor enabled me to see how it affects others too. It was so cool, because I could see other students beginning to have the same feelings that I had experienced when I had first walked through the DECATS doors!
In middle school it helped me to ‘step up to the plate’ when opportunities arose that had not previously been prescribed. Now, throughout my freshman year in high school, it has helped me quite tremendously in ways that I never thought it would. Doing things constantly like meeting new people, participate in team academic studies, and exploring global aspects of culture and people all throughout the world seem to trace their roots back to the summers I spent with DECATS, and have helped me draw from those experiences to expand on them in a more diverse atmosphere.
I would highly suggest to anyone thinking about participating in the DECATS program to do it! Give it a try! I know that I loved it a bunch, and am very certain that you would too.
Ms. Sarah Baca
Submitted February 2015
I have never met a middle school student who was completely confident in themselves. I was no exception. As a preteen I was extremely shy and self-conscious. I remember being so excited to be accepted into the DECATS program, and at the same time terrified that I would not know anyone there. But on the first day of camp I could not have been more surprised. My pod leader made us all feel so welcome. Teachers made sure that no one sat alone at lunch. And the classes were so much more fun than any classes I took at school. Community. Belonging. And at the same time celebrating individuality.
That’s why I kept coming back. And why I am still a part of DECATS ten years later. I am proud to be coming back to teach at the program that was such a formative part of my life. In fact, my experience at DECATS and the amazingly talented faculty were part of the reason I decided to be a teacher. In December 2014 I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor of Music and a teaching certificate. I am presently substituting in Garland and Mesquite and I hope to teach full time next year.
Ms. Alex Gandy
Submitted June 2009
I can still remember eleven years ago being pulled into my counselor’s office at Mohawk Elementary. It was me and three boys. Mr. Gaskill told us that we had all been nominated to attend a leadership school in the summer called DeBusk, but only three of us could go and someone would have to be an alternate. I didn’t have long to worry about not being selected because he quickly told me that since I was the only girl nominated, I was guaranteed to be one of the three. As a fairly high-stress ten-year-old, I was nervous about going off to something basically by myself, but I knew that my third grade teacher Mrs. Reed taught there so I thought I would give it a try.
I attended DeBusk when it was still called leadership school, not camp, and when it was still four weeks long rather than two. I can recall so much about it – writing in my journal every day, watching a biography of Harry Truman, visiting the Holocaust Museum, becoming a founding father in the Constitutional Convention. What really stand out are the friendships I made during such a short time. I went home and cried because I wouldn’t be seeing them again. Luckily, I was wrong! Some of those people followed me through junior high, high school, and even into college. DeBusk was my first venture into leadership, and it jumpstarted so many things I have accomplished since then.
Most people’s DeBusk stories end there. Mine doesn’t. In 2005, Jan Reed, that same third grade teacher, called and asked if I would be interested in being her college intern for the program as, after 14 years teaching, she had become the director. I had just graduated as salutatorian from Pearce High School and was headed to Texas A&M University in the fall. With a blank summer for the first time in my life, I jumped at the chance to go back to something I had loved so much as a kid! Before we started, I thought I would spend the two weeks at camp, and that would be the end. Again, I was wrong. I enjoyed that two weeks more than I ever would have imagined! Watching the 90 students go from scared stiff on Day One to loving it by Day Three to having to be pried away from their new friends on the final day was such a wonderful experience for me. The students who are sent to DeBusk are incredibly unique, and I still remember names and faces from that first summer. By the end, I had a mission – get Dr. Reed to ask me back for another summer.
I accomplished that goal and was back in 2006 for another round. This time, I got to spend more time in the classrooms, watching seven of the most dynamic teachers do more for students than I had ever seen before. My life plan at this point was to pursue a career in law, but my contact with these kids made me stop and think. Was that plan what I really wanted or was my whole outlook shifting to teaching? It didn’t take me long to find that answer. On the last day, I knew I wouldn’t be able to come back the next year as I was studying abroad in Poland. The huge knot in my stomach and the immense effort to choke back tears told me one thing – I wanted to be a teacher. Everything changed for me because of DeBusk.
After my summer in Poland, I was back at DeBusk (I had planted my best friend in my position the year before so I would be assured to get my place back!). It was another outstanding camp, but it was this year, 2009, that really allowed me to see every aspect of DeBusk, and all that it does for everyone involved.
I had graduated from A&M and had my very own teaching job in Richardson lined up for the fall. The new director, Liz Fleskes, changed my position with DeBusk from college intern to teacher intern. There was very little time I spent outside the classrooms, running from one of the five rooms to another. With every biography I watched the kids do, I saw untapped creativity come to life. I watched lawyers-in-the-making passionately debate over who was to blame in the “Case of the Bicycle Blunder.” I heard insightful questions that I didn’t know ten year olds had in them. And I knew their bonding was real when they started coming up to me in droves the second week asking why it had to end, why it wasn’t four weeks long like when I did it, why they had to be apart from all their new friends.
Everything came full circle for me this year when I had the chance to be the leadership guest speaker. In preparing, I found the evaluation my DeBusk teacher had written of me. The traits he saw in me then are the same traits my bosses and professors had written about in the reference letters that helped me get my teaching job. I knew that all my years with DeBusk had developed me into something I might not have otherwise become. I was able to tell the kids to stick with the traits that they have now because even at ten, they have what they need already to live up to their full potential (of course, I gave them bubble gum to really drive the “sticky” point home). I looked out at them not wondering what they would accomplish someday but knowing that they will all do something to make the world a better place. With the inspiration of five teachers that I hope to be like one day, 90 kids have a foundation from which to live out every dream they have. And I have gotten to be a part of that…five times!
I thought about spending my summer in Washington, D.C. but missing DeBusk just wasn’t something I wanted to do. I can’t thank DeBusk Foundation enough for all that it has done for students over the past eighteen years. My eleven years with it, from student to graduate to intern (and hopefully to teacher eventually!), have been phenomenal. I hope students for years and years to come will be able to experience what I have!
Submitted June 2017
DeBusk Foundation welcomed Ms. Alex Gandy to the Board of Directors in November, 2014 where she served as co-director on the Foundation Advancement Committee. Sadly, Ms. Gandy resigned from the board in early 2017. Thank you Alex for serving on the Board for two years. We will miss you and your talents! May your new endeavors lead you on the path where you are meant to be.
Mr. Travis Hunter
Video of Travis Hunter – June 2018
Submitted February 2015
DeBusk Enrichment Center for Academically Talented Scholars is a well-renowned program, known for welcoming and educating gifted/talented students. My name is Travis Hunter, and I am currently a Junior Mentor in the DECATS program. This summer will be my twelfth consecutive year with DECATS, and my eighth consecutive year working behind the scenes to improve the scholars’ experience. On a number of occasions, I have had parents, scholars, mentors, and Graduate Assistants (GAs) of all ages ask me why. Why do I keep going after all these years? Why don’t I just take a break? My reasoning is simple: I have seen the wonders this program can work on students, and how much this program has given me and so many other scholars that have been involved. Right from the start, I could tell this program was special, and should be treasured as a gift from God.
I began my DECATS journey in 2004 at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School. Being a young third-grade gifted student, I was rather shy and nervous about the entire program. The first thing I remember was the orientation, and how every single mentor and GA welcomed me with open arms and a smile. From the moment I entered those doors, I felt right at home. The courses were incredibly fun, and I could feel myself learning and growing through each day. My greatest inspiration came from that first year, through the guidance of two of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had, Mr. Browne and Mr. Romano. That first year was over before I knew it, but by its end I knew I couldn’t stop there. I had to return the next summer, learn and grow even more, and continue to kindle the friendships I had made the previous summer. DECATS had become a part of my summer, and a part of me.
Before I knew what was happening, it was Spring of 2008 and my time as a scholar was over. I thought my life of DECATS had come to an end, however God must have been looking out for me because I discovered the opportunity to return as a volunteer, a Graduate Assistant. Many might look at the amount of time and work that is required for the position and decline without a second thought. I was a polar opposite; without regard to the challenges or time required, I immediately accepted. To the surprise of my family and friends, I chose to work for the DECATS program as a GA because I could already tell the program had given me and the other scholars more than I could have ever dreamed, through life lessons, friendships, and skills. I felt an inner obligation to give back, to thank the program for all it had given me. Little did I know it would begin an entirely new journey for me as I worked behind the scenes of DECATS, helping the Mentors and Scholars maintain the high quality of the program. For six years I worked as a GA, and during that time I began to change for the better as a person. I began to learn the importance of selfless service and how it helped others, and I learned how to take initiative and complete tasks not when I was told, but when I noticed they needed to be done. I became more outspoken and more confident, I began to learn about true leadership and the followership that is required to learn leadership, and I began to witness the incredible power of the program itself. It was then that I learned that DECATS does more than educate gifted students, it builds them into better people. It teaches them about the importance of teamwork, respect, timeliness, sharing their gifts with the world, and about a thousand other talents and skills that the world today seems to have lost. The program trains each generation to achieve all that they can with their God-given talents to create a new and better world for others.
My experience as a scholar and GA taught me a lot of things about life and about leadership, which led me to several great leadership opportunities, especially within the Boy Scouts of America. At one point, thanks to my lessons from DECATS, I was a Junior Scoutmaster within my troop, and I had earned the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. I thought I had learned everything I could from DECATS, but once again the program still had more to teach me. At the end of my last year as a Graduate Assistant, the director of the campus I was working at approached me and offered me the position of Junior Mentor. The idea of working at DECATS and getting paid was so incredulous to me that I accepted without a second thought. To this day, if I were told I would work as Junior Mentor without pay, I would still happily take the job. Now, I appreciate much better how much DECATS has helped me mature as a person and as a servant of God, and I am happy to give back however I can.
My life has taken me to many different and marvelous places, and a lot of them would not be have possible without DECATS. Through my education experience at DECATS and my growing love for seeing the Scholars learn and grow, I made the decision to pursue a degree in Education at Texas A&M University. I am also a member of the Aggie Band and the Corps of Cadets, a military leadership organization within the university. Every single day I spend within the Corps, I witness DECATS leadership skills within me and within those around me, skills I would never have recognized without the program. Even as my own life progresses, I am always prepared for DECATS, always excited to return to the program that has shaped my entire life, and always ready to give more to the program that has already given me so much. In the future, I hope to give back even more by becoming a full-fledged mentor, maybe even a director one day. It would be an honor and a privilege to be at the helm of such an incredible, life-changing program, helping the program grow so that I may inspire and mold scholars in the same way that the program has molded and inspired me.
Ms. Liz Lark-Riley
Video of Liz Lark-Riley – June 2018
Submitted February 2015
I remember feeling incredibly special when I was nominated to attend DECATS in 6th grade. I clearly remember filling out the questionnaire and studying the catalog of classes. I would get to study things I’d never heard of (a whole elective on tessellations!) and every day I would get to participate in Drama (my major).
I remember we did Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I wasn’t cast in a very big role but the atmosphere and general culture of the program allowed me to challenge myself to take my small role and make it memorable. Not only that but for the first time I really understood that theater is working together to achieve something greater as a team than I could ever accomplish alone.
Additionally, the teachers and fellow students made me feel and see the value of thinking outside the box and marching to the beat of my own drum.
I am still working in theater. I started a company with my husband that’s dedicated to the creation and production of original works. We moved back to the small Florida town where my husband grew up, a place where there was no original theater being performed. We are Mavericks out here and I am grateful to DECATS for being the first place where it felt good to be different.
Mr. James Luisi
Video of James Luisi – June 2018
Submitted February 2015
The summer of 2000 was when I first became acquainted with the DeBusk Enrichment Center for Academically Talented Students or Junior DECATS for short. I did not know at all what to expect when I first arrived at St. Monica Catholic School for my first summer in the program. This was something entirely new to me, but I was sure it was going to be more fun than sitting at home playing video games or lazing around on the couch all day.
I still remember that year’s theme – “All the World’s A Stage,” taken from the famous monologue in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. My classes that summer were phenomenal and helped me to realize for the first time in my life that I could pursue many diverse interests at the same time. My classes not only included courses on the science of electricity and the physics behind the principles of flight, but also introduced me to music and theater in a new way. In my musical composition class, I recall that we were each assigned a composer or team of composers to research. I reached into the hat to draw out the name of the composer I would be assigned to discover the names “Lennon & McCartney.” I didn’t remember hearing of them before, but was excited to discover that they were the brilliant minds behind the music of The Beatles; I soon learned all I could about them and to this day remain an avid fan of The Fab Four.
As I continued through the program, I continued to reap its many benefits. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, many of whom I still keep in contact with today, even as we move all across the globe. Just as important were the relationships I began to build with my teachers in the program, several of whom I still consider my mentors. DECATS provided me a home during the summer where I could be with these peers and teachers who taught me how fun learning and discovery can truly be. What also made this time in my life unique was that these learning experiences were had in the context of my Roman Catholic faith. The program continuously reminded me that God has blessed me, my peers, and the entire DECATS community with many diverse gifts that needed to not only be celebrated and explored, but also cultivated and used to make the world a better place. I may not have realized it at the time, but Jr. DECATS was a major turning point in my life as I began to mature into a young adult.
When the summer of 2007 rolled around, I was fortunate enough to be invited back to the Jr. DECATS community. I spent that summer serving the program as a teacher’s aide, ensuring that everything from the first day of orientation to the final carpool line ran smoothly. In the following years, I was given the opportunity to share my knowledge of theater and public speaking with the students by teaching classes in acting and debate. This coming summer, I look forward to teaching the next generation of students the fundamentals of acting and the basics of film journalism.
15 years ago this summer, DECATS introduced me to the idea that pursuing knowledge can be a joyously fun experience. Thanks to DeBusk Foundation, I’m still at DECATS and continue to see how fun learning can be as I educate a new generation of Jr. DECATS scholars.
Mr. Jay Rocca
Submitted February 2015
I didn’t know what to expect that first day of DECATS. As an insecure middle school student, any new venture or change of routine brought about rolling waves of anxiety. I certainly didn’t expect to find the kind of people that can change your life by becoming such a welcomed part of it. Whether it was conversations of similar interests or overcoming challenges that required a team, DECATS gave me the opportunity to develop myself into the person I always wanted to be.
I have now been a part of this program for over a decade, and it is still allowing me to grow through the teaching of others. As a full time middle school science teacher and curriculum specialist during the school year, DECATS is an annual homecoming to a similar yet special world. A world that I hope to be a part of for a long time to come.
Ms. Claire Stephen
Video of Claire Stephen – June 2018
Submitted February 2015
Claire joined DECATS in Houston as a young 8 year old Scholar. Her courses allowed her to grow in her understanding of math, science, social coordination, executive functions and love of God.
Surrounded by the DECATS methodology, her passion for teaching was ignited and she gained an understanding of the importance of giving back, and has now been a Jr. Mentor with the program for the past 3 years. She co-Mentors courses which allows her to practice the classroom management methods and gain a better understanding of working with gifted youth in a classroom setting.
She has grown in her talent and is now a 19 year old Sophomore at University of Texas with a dual major in Theatre and Education as part of the Theatre Studies Program. Upon graduation, Claire plans to teach at a Catholic School within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, where DECATS serves more than 1,000 Scholars at 5 locations throughout the city.
Mr. Jeremy Thames
Submitted February 2015
Jeremy Thames is from Tyler, Texas where he attended DECATS four times as a student at All Saints Episcopal School. He graduated third in his class, was a National Merit Commended Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society, where he was chapter president. Jeremy was also president of the Young Republicans and captain of the golf team.
Currently in his junior year at Vanderbilt University as a double-major in Finance and Economics, Jeremy is in the top 5% of his class and has been named to the Dean’s List every semester. As the youngest member of the Executive Board of Vanderbilt Investment Club, he was elected incoming president for next year. Last summer, he earned a highly-competitive internship at Harris Associates, a Chicago-based investment firm that manages approximately $150 billion in client assets, and earned an unprecedented return invitation for next summer.
Jeremy is a member of Beta Upsilon Chi national fraternity, loves following college football and basketball, competes in intramural sports and plays golf every chance he gets.
I first attended DECATS as a 10 year-old 4th grader in 2004. Since then my two younger brothers have attended and I have my senior year of college in sight. Thinking back, after that first year, the only thing I was sure of about DECATS is that I wanted more. I didn’t understand it at the time but the kind of inspired teaching that goes on at DECATS is the exception rather than the rule. I’ve often wondered why that is and why more of education and learning can’t be the same way. I had so many great experiences at DECATS it’s hard to single out a particular one but there are definitely some things that stand out ten years later.
One of the most memorable classes – one that I took all four years – was Sports Math. The mentor used statistics from pro baseball and basketball teams and had us make a board game. We used the board game in a league where we competed against other scholars. My last year in the class I was named assistant commissioner, which meant I helped newer scholars make their game and compete against more veteran scholars. It makes so much sense now that by helping to make math and numbers fun that DECATS furthered my interest in finance and economics. I’m convinced I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
Being mentored, then having a chance to be a mentor to younger scholars, helped me begin to understand leadership and how critical it is to developing yourself as a person. Writing ‘Thank You’ letters to DeBusk Foundation really helped me see that this was an experience to be deeply appreciated. The Perspectives lessons on the “Different Kinds of Smart” were mind-blowing. There are people who never get a chance to be introduced to something like that and I was fortunate to have the exposure as a 3rd-6th grader. Learning that I had multiple levels of intelligence and that I could make choices that help improve each of them is something I still think about today.
Looking back, the most enduring thing about DECATS is remembering the way it made me feel. Some of my friends now find it hard to believe that, as a 10-13 year old, I would’ve rather attended an academic camp than some other kind of summer fun. I honestly can’t imagine having done anything else. In fact, my youngest brother just finished his first summer at DECATS. It was hard being so far away at college but he couldn’t wait to tell me about everything he did on a particular day, like which players he drafted for his Sports Math team. He was so excited! I asked my parents if I or my other younger brother were that fired up about DECATS. They both just laughed so I guess the answer was obvious! Needless to say, DECATS continues to be an important part of my life and it’s an experience I sincerely hope my children have a chance to have some day.