At a news conference in front of his Irving home, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who earlier this week was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school, declared he wants to go to the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science.
“But since the charges have already been dropped, I will have to say that I really want to go to [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and TAMS,” he said Wednesday in front of a group of reporters.
TAMS staff, alumni and students are now trying to get him there, and staff are working to arrange a private tour of the program for Mohamed and his family. While he wouldn’t be able to start the program until fall 2016 at the earliest, TAMS Dean Glênisson de Oliveira, said he thinks Mohamed would be a good fit for the program.
“Our strong sense is that TAMS is really a great place for students just like him, who are very creative, who are very engaged and curious and very smart, and I think our community is very welcoming,” de Oliveira said. “Having said that, we are also very careful to make sure that students are vetted through our admissions process to ensure they’re going to be successful in this environment.”
The program, out of the University of North Texas, is for high-achieving high school students across the state who are interested in science and math. The students live on campus and attend UNT classes, while getting the benefits of extracurricular activities specifically for TAMS students, said Brent Jones, assistant dean for recruitment and admissions.
Traditionally, the academy accepts 200 students each fall who, if in regular school, would be starting their junior year of high school. Every now and then, one or two students who would be entering their sophomore years are admitted. The application process is like one for college: students take the SAT test, submit recommendations from teachers and interview for the spots in the program. Most years, there are between 400 and 600 applicants, Jones said.
Even though it would be rare to accept someone as young as Mohamed, many in the community are pushing to get him to TAMS. Students and faculty members have reached out to him on social media and emailed him, and TAMS now has a point person on staff trying to coordinate a private tour, Jones said.
The TAMS Alumni Association issued a press release Thursday that stated it wanted to give Mohamed a scholarship to cover his first year at TAMS if he was admitted to the program.
So many people from TAMS are reaching out to Mohamed because they understand his curiosity and feeling out of place in a traditional school setting, Jones said.
“We have students who are internally motivated and very curious about things. The pejorative term would be nerds, I guess,” he said. “I think that, plus the fact that others didn’t even recognize that he was building a clock, where as all of our students would have recognized that. I think it resonated with them and touched a nerve because they were like that in school. They felt a kindred spirit, and they reached out.”
So far, though, Jones said there is no word from Mohamed or his representatives, as they are in line behind Facebook, the White House and Google for some one-on-one time with Mohamed.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan