Fifteen-year-old Kenneth Williams found out just last week that he was academically gifted.
"It took me by surprise," sophomore Kenneth said of the news from his teachers. "Now my teachers expect more of me. I can't fluff my courses off anymore."
To celebrate their achievements, Williams and about 300 other students from Gifted and Talented Education programs in the Oxnard Union High School District gathered Friday for a day of entertainment and food for the body and mind.
The goal of the conference was to help the students understand that "there are lots of kids like them from different cultures and from all walks of life," said Bert Pearlman, the district's director of curriculum studies. "Being together makes them realize that gifted people don't look or act in one particular way."
The students met at the Camarillo Airport Conference Center, where they were entertained by a mime duo, Berger & Diskin, the Korean Classical Music & Dance Company and Terry Tamminen, a storyteller of Shakespearean works who dubs himself "Will Power."
The program also featured a kite-flying and design contest, in which students test-flew colorful kites they designed.
In the afternoon, UCLA professors Peter Loewenberg and Maurice Zeitlin as well as scientist Yvonne Vigue from the Jet Propulsion Laboratories gave lectures to the students.
About 900 students are accepted into the GATE program districtwide through four different channels. The criteria for selection include scoring high on standardized tests; maintaining a 3.75 grade point average for four consecutive semesters in math, science, English and foreign language; being identified as artistically or musically talented, or demonstrating outstanding leadership.
Mike Vargas, 17, a Rio Mesa senior from Oxnard, said he has always doodled but wasn't aware of his artistic talent until his art teacher pointed it out to him this year.
"It makes me want to be the best," he said.
The way Pearlman sees it, all youths have the potential to be the best.
"We as teachers just need to look for that talent and help cultivate it," he said.