When Ana Kate Schwartzman came to Moulton two months ago to visit her maternal grandfather, Donald Proctor, she was excited to be in the South again.
She flew alone, as she had done before on several occasions. While we might think of this as out of the ordinary, Ana Kate takes it all in her stride. After all, she has been navigating under her own steam in NYC for a few years now. Kate is eleven years old.
This is how she describes her 45 minute commute to school each day. “Well, I get on the free bus, then I walk to the next stop, get on a cable car for about 10 minutes, cross the East River, get off, walk another five minutes, wait for another bus and finally make it to school.” Remember, she’s been doing this for a year and she is only eleven.
You’d never know that by talking to her if you couldn’t see her. She sounds like an adult and thinks like an adult, but her slight build and pixie face, ready smile and quick wit reveal her tender years. This kid is really smart, it’s obvious from the time she opens her mouth. Although she never sounds like a know-it-all or a narcissist, she just sounds like an intelligent adult in a child’s body.
She was inducted into MENSA at the age of six. Founded on October 1, 1946, Oxford, United Kingdom, MENSA is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test.
Her dad, Dan Schwartzman, a sports radio broadcastingpersonality, has this advice for parents with gifted children, “I wouldn’t say it’s challenging to have a smart child, I would say sometimes you have to remind them that they are just a child and they should enjoy their childhood as long as they can, there will be plenty of time to be an adult in the future.”
“We don’t push Kate into doing any activity that she has not expressed an interest in,” said her dad. “I think it’s important that she does activities outside of school as I think it’s important to be well rounded. Kate does have a hard time sticking with an activity if she gets bored of it quickly or if it becomes too challenging. She has really gravitated towards volleyball and debate and she enjoys them both.”
Kate attends the Salk School of Science. “It’s very interesting,” she says. “It was started by a group of doctors at NYU, who wanted a strong medical education in the area so they started the Salk. Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine, gave them permission to use his name in the ‘90s before he passed away.”
She converses about the changing environment, something she has been knowledgeable of since the elementary grades where they discussed global warming in-depth. “It was our last unit this year,” Kate explained. “It was very interesting, and it scares me for the future, for years people have talked about how it’s not affecting us, yet in the newer generations it is already effecting us and our children will be directly affected.”
“In class we focused on the science behind what happens with carbon dioxide and methane omissions, and the solutions were things like carpooling, eating less meat, and watching our personal emissions such as turning off lights,” she continued. “But personally, I’m not sure how much that would help, because China has more emissions and their economy relies on it. They wouldn’t be willing to change their ways. Smog there is also a terrible issue, even back in 2017 when I had lessons on this in the first grade.”
This year she will be a seventh grader. She seems eager for school to start. Her classes include math, which she jokingly says isn’t very creative, science, and Humanities, which include reading, writing and social studies. “We have Humanities twice each day,” she explained. “I get bored in math,” she added.
Her favorite subjects are social studies and writing. She once wrote a paper on a children’s book titled “Mittens”. Her mother, the late Aimee Proctor, sent it to the author. A while later they met with the author and Kate worked with her on honing her writing skills, which has turned into a very much needed outlet for the young girl. “We rotate through electives like drama, gym and coding (computer class) throughout the year,” she added.
She has turned to poetry to help her cope with the loss of her mom, and has written several poems that will surprise you at their depth and the sadness they convey.
She has enjoyed her summer in Alabama, loves fishing in the Tennessee River with her granddad, visiting Panama City Beach and Nashville with her cousins, and shopping with her friends. She likes the size of stores here, saying that discount stores like Target and Walmart are bigger here than NYC, and that some of the more famous stores like Macy’s have closed there.
She walks practically everywhere she goes in NYC, or takes a bus, but here she hasn’t walked the length of the driveway. “You drive everywhere, here,” she laughed. “We have a car but we hardly ever drive it because of traffic and parking.”
It will be awhile before she has to worry about parking spots and space rental. “People up there have to be 18 before they can get a driver’s license,” she said with a mischievous grin.
Other cultural differences include buying pizza by the slice from pizzeria’s in NYC, the size and number of libraries in NYC, and the availability of museums and the huge parks there, where she loves hanging out near the huge fountain in Central Park, as well as ethnic restaurants, her favorites are Korean and Japanese.
As far as Southern food goes she has become obsessed with pickled okra. “I like it fried, too,” she giggled. “But I love it pickled! And I love southern breakfasts.”
Kate loves Taylor Swift and recently got to go and see the movie, “Where the Crawdad’s Sing.” Another favorite movie is “Fried Green Tomatoes.” She loves to read, and her favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.
The heat in Alabama has been brutal this year, as with most of the world. “It feels like we are in Australia or something,” Kate laughed. Still, the heat didn’t prevent her trips to the river with her grandfather, and she has bragging rights to a 12-pound catfish this summer.
One of the most special things about her trips to the South are the stars, not like the ones in NYC, where she once saw an episode of Law & Order being filmed beneath her apartment window, or seeing Uma Thurman on the street, but the stars she sees in Alabama are perhaps more beautiful and interesting.
Southern hospitality is one of the biggest differences of the two areas. She seems to be picking up a little of our accent before stepping into the school year in NYC! “It’s strange to see little children, even little babies that are strangers speak to each other,” Kate exclaimed.
She picks up a little “Southern speak” for the trip home. “The only hint of an accent would be her saying “ya’ll” but besides that there would only be an accent if she was trying to lay it on thick,” laughed her dad.
We will look forward to seeing what this young lady does with the talent and self-confidence God has blessed her with.