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American Mensa Region 10

Regional Press Clippings

Congratulations to PRP winners 2009


Overall Presentation
Jill Russ
Northwest Florida Mensa

Overall Entertainment
Jill Russ
Northwest Florida Mensa

Member Recruitment
Jill Russ
Northwest Florida Mensa

Outstanding Web Site (Large Group)
Ronan Heffernan
Tampa Bay Mensa

Outstanding Web Site (Medium Group)
Jill Russ
Northwest Florida Mensa

Jill Russ
Northwest Florida Mensa

Way to go folks!!!!

Guest commentary: I just met a girl named Maria

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It was a long hard road just to graduate from Immokalee High School. Until she was 15 years old, she was on that road following the harvest across America, from sea to shining sea. There were artichokes in California, cherries in Michigan, and tomatoes in Florida.

Maria's mother found a way to give roots to her family. She worked part-time, lived with relatives, and attended adult education classes while the rest of the family continued to harvest crops for a living. Maria's mother became a licensed cosmetologist. She found a job at a beauty shop in Immokalee. With financial help from the family, they finally had a home.

The rest of the family members found jobs, and for the first time in her life, Maria became a student who could actually stay in one school for an entire school year. Her grades began to improve. By the time Maria was a senior, her teachers began to notice that this was no ordinary girl named Maria.

One of her teachers encouraged Maria to apply for the Mensa Scholarship which is awarded at the end of each school year. Mensa is the high IQ society and the local chapter members evaluate student essays to determine the winners. Some Mensa members see themselves as holy guardians of the English language. Things like spelling, grammar, syntax, and parts of speech are treated with reverence. Maria's essay was written in English. Maria won!

In addition to correct English usage, the Mensa essays are judged on the goals the student has for the future. Maria has a very simple goal. She is now attending college, majoring in education, with a goal toward a Ph.D. in education. Her dream is to establish a standard curriculum in all the school districts in the great harvest regions of our country. She knows, first hand, that if migrant children can get high quality, consistent education, they will be able to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty that was so much a way of life for her family.

My wife and I were invited to act as masters of ceremony for the Mensa Scholarship Awards Dinner. Mensa feels like the parents should at least be treated to a good dinner at a respectable restaurant, so we get together and treat the whole family. We were fortunate to be seated at the same table with Maria and her mother.

Maria's mother seemed to tolerate the fuss over her daughter with a benevolent amusement. Maria bubbled. She was irrepressibly charming. She confided to my wife that she was afraid that her makeup had smeared or run before the ceremony had even begun. She explained that they don't have air-conditioning at home, and the A/C in their old pickup hasn't worked since last year. Maria and my wife left to do the things that women do in front of mirrors. Maria's mother, who had seemed so composed earlier, leaned forward with an intense look on her face, "Maria is going to do something with her life. Thank you for helping." she said. A slight quiver of the lower lip was the only hint of the feelings behind her matriarchal dignity. Several of the people at our table were struck with compassion for what we were witnessing. We were also inspired by such a pure example of the "American Dream."

When Maria returned, some of us began to offer sympathy for all her hardships. Maria wanted none of it. "Things aren't so bad now. It has been a long time since we haven't had enough food", she said cheerfully. We know people who have a bad day if their hot tub springs a leak. Maria thinks things are OK if she has eaten that day.

Our dinner with Maria caused us to volunteer to head up the Mensa Scholarship Fund Drive. There are many other bright, deserving young people who need the help a Mensa Scholarship can give. Please help us make our contributions worthy of the spirit of young heroes like Maria. Contributions can be mailed to: Mensa, care of Cal Curlin, 2230 Arielle Dr. Apt # 1906, Naples, FL 34109.

© 2005 Bonita Daily News and The Banner. Published in Bonita Springs, Florida, USA by the E.W. Scripps Co.

The View From Here
Michael McLeod

Mensa exam begs question: Why bother?

The View From Here is a slice of local life by Sentinel reporters.  Today, feature writer Michael McLeod contributes.

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Worse than that: It is a beautiful, college football Saturday afternoon.  This practically qualifies it as a national holiday, at least in my mind, making it an especially tragic day to be trapped in a small room of an Orange County branch library, clutching a No. 2 pencil instead of a remote control.

I am here with a dozen other souls, leaning over a standardized, two-hour, multiple-choice test that is offered monthly by the Central Florida chapter of Mensa, the international, high-IQ society.  People who score in the 98th percentile of the test - meaning they score better than 98 percent of the people who take IQ tests - qualify for membership.

I want to find out if this big-brain outfit is as snooty as it sounds.  More specifically, I wonder who takes the test, and why they want to join Mensa.

As an ego boost?  As a gesture of elitism?  To seek out intellectual companionship?  To prove how smart they are?

Please choose the correct response and fill in the bubble just to the left on your answer sheet.

Math is a cure for ego

I have no trouble with the word usage questions: synonyms, antonyms, Figuring out what word in a group of four doesn’t fit.  That’s gravy.  It’s the math that terrifies me, as it always has.  Math is nature’s way of keeping my ego in check.

And neatness may or may not count, but it is beyond me now and always has been.  So I accept with wry fatalism the midtest discovery that there is something wrong with the eraser on my No. 2 pencil.  It’s calcified, or something, so that making a correction is like rubbing a tiny little Brillo pad across the paper.  My multiple-choice answer sheet soon takes on a tortured, moth-eaten appearance.  So do I.

I sneak a peek at the answer sheet of the young woman on my right.  She is cheerful and composed and finishes most sections of the test well before I do.  Even more galling, her paper is pristine, all the little bubbles filled in neatly.

Her name, I discover after the test, is Melissa Williams.  She is a 27-year-old University of Central Florida student who works for Hilton as a vacation planner and is in the midst of online classes to become a real estate sales associate.

“I always, form the fifth grade on, was a gifted student,” she says.  “I have no idea what my IQ is, and I don’t really care that much.  I’m just looking for the same kind of people I used to hang around with in high school.  I miss my nerdy little friends.”

It turns out to be something of a theme.  All of the test-takers I talk to tell me they were exceptional students in grade school and high school, and I can tell they all miss that world, miss the Instant-feedback loop of good grades and appreciative teachers.  They aren’t egotistical so much as nostalgic.

Yanis Rock, a 20-year-old Valencia Community College student, says he tried his hand in business, working as a real estate developer, before returning to school, where he always excelled.

“I guess I miss that feeling of accomplishment,” he says.  “I’m not really looking for an ego boost.  I’m just, I think, revising my dream, and I thought this might help.”

“Curiosity. A challenge,” says Bill Leavy, 42, explaining why he turned up for the test.  Leavy, an Orlando labor organizer who is currently working with Wal-Mart employees, says he listened to Mozart to prepare himself because he had read somewhere that hearing classical music stimulates the brain.

Did it work?

“Apparently not,” he admits.  “The math part blew me out of the water.”

“I tried having breakfast at Einstein bagels,” I say.  “That doesn’t help, either.”

We’ll both have to wait three weeks to find out for sure: That’s how long it takes for test results to come back.

A meeting of the minds

There are more than 50,000 American members of Mensa, which was founded in 1946 by Roland Berrill, an Australian attorney, and Dr. Lancelot Ware, an equally idealistic British scientist.  They chose the Latin word for “table” as the name of their group to represent their notion of a round-table organization in which every member is on an equal footing, regardless of background.

Famous members include comedian Steve Martin, actresses Jodie Foster and Geena Davis and the late science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov

Earlier this year Mensa added its youngest member to the rolls: a 3-year-old British boy named Mikhail Ali, who has an IQ of 137.

Mensa members refer to themselves as M’s; married Mensans are therefore M&M’s.  Last year, at a Mensa convention, 100 M&M’s renewed their wedding vows.

Next year, in the first such meeting outside of England, a weeklong international gathering of Mensans will take place at Walt Disney World.  Featured speakers will include a cosmologist and a scientist who studies bioluminescence - the ability of some creatures to glow.

It all sounds very cerebral.  But Jim Blackmore, Mensa’s national marketing director, insists that most people in Mensa don’t take themselves too seriously.

“They just want to be around people who get their jokes,” he says.  “Mensa people love puns.  There’s a staff member around here who sends a pun around every Tuesday.  Some of them are real groaners.”

Perhaps the punster would appreciate a sample question from a mock test that cropped up a few years ago as a product of Densa, a grass-roots parody of Mensa.

Q: Is there a Fourth of July in Great Britain?

A: Yes. It comes right after July 3.

Michael McLeod can be reached at or 407-420-5432

© Orlando Sentinel  October 31, 2005
used by permission




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