In 1997, Karen Langdon enrolled her children in the Worlds of Wisdom and Wonder program outside Chicago. After watching their passion for learning reignite and their spirits soar while attending, she and a friend, Tracy Vickery, were convinced of the need to bring a similar program to Austin and with the blessing and support of Joan Franklin Smutny, founder of the Chicago program, Summer Wonders opened its doors in 1999 using various locations in Austin. Karen modified the Chicago model to allow individual teachers to offer subjects and teach to their passions. Austin parents found similar reactions in their children and via word-of-mouth in year two, Summer Wonders quadrupled in size.
From its beginning, Summer Wonders was designed to offer opportunities for students to explore diverse subjects taught by stellar and knowledgeable faculty at the higher intellectual level needed for serving gifted students. It also incorporated the best practices for gifted learners and offered classes that were relevant, timely, innovative, and technologically advanced. In response to yearly enthusiastic feedback from parents and their question of “Why can’t school be like this?” Karen joined with Donna Hulsey in 2005 to found ACE Academy. In addition to her responsibilities at ACE, she served as Executive Director of Summer Wonders from 2000 until 2016. Under her leadership, Summer Wonders won numerous awards, including “Best Summer Camp” in the Austin Chronicle Readers’ Poll five years running and “Best Educational Camp” from Austin Family Magazine Readers’ Poll during her last two years.
When ACE Academy took over Summer Wonders in July of 2016 the program flourished with the infusion of fresh curriculum and innovative leadership. We continue to win awards and provide quality programming for gifted learners, while expanding our program in ways that continue to meet the needs of bright and gifted students in the 21st century and beyond.