About HATS

Students Painting Fence

A History of HATS

The HATS (High Achieving Talented Students) Program was founded by Cindy Lovell '94, '96, Ph.D., in 1999. Lovell was identified as a gifted child, yet she dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade because she was bored and under-challenged. She was a successful business owner before pursuing her childhood dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in two years and nine months while working 60 hours per week at her business, followed by her Master of Arts degree, both earned at Stetson University. Lovell earned her doctorate from the University of Iowa in just two years while working three jobs — at the Belin-Blank Center, in food service, and as an exam proctor.

Lovell joined Stetson University's faculty in the education department in 1999 as a full-time assistant professor and immediately went to work applying all she had learned in Iowa. In her "spare" time, she launched the HATS Program and established dozens of summer programs around the state of Florida, set up above-level testing at various Florida sites, launched the Hatterdays program at the request of parents, and established the endowed Belin-Blank/HATS Scholarship at Stetson University, which benefits participants of the HATS Program. In 2007, she accepted a position at Quincy University (Quincy, Illinois) in the School of Education and also volunteered to serve as the education coordinator at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Lovell's passion for Mark Twain was inspired by her fourth grade teacher, who introduced her to Twain. Lovell is quick to point out that Samuel Clemens left school at the age of 11 when his father died, never to return, yet went on to achieve greatness under the pen name "Mark Twain."

Lovell remains committed to the HATS Program as an advisor and is active in the Stetson University alumni program. She understands the frustration of boredom and mediocrity that many talented students face and is committed to extinguishing underachievement by challenging educators to set high expectations for their brightest students. She also encourages bright students to create their own pathways to success.

The HATS Program serves gifted and high-achieving Florida students. It offers summer programs at various locations around the state and works with the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa to offer above-level testing through BESTS (Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search). HATS and BESTS scholarships are awarded in HATS summer programs and to Stetson University students. The program's first-ever college scholarship was awarded to Jenna Colonel in fall 2005.

Mission Statement

The mission of the HATS Program at Stetson University is to identify and serve high-achieving talented students through challenging, engaging, and meaningful learning experiences within a culture of excellence.

We realize that not all students take traditional paths to college. Some students attend public school, some attend private school, and some are homeschooled. Some are immigrant children who are learning English as their second language, so perhaps their academic gifts are not clearly evident to classroom teachers. Some will be the first person in their family to attend college, while others come from a long line of college graduates.

No matter who you are - regardless of your culture, your financial resources and your educational experiences - if you are a high-achieving student, we want to encourage you to consider Stetson University as your future home, whether as a participant in the HATS Program or as a university student (or both!). We salute your achievement and are committed to nurturing your continued success.

You are our future. You will change the world in ways too wonderful to imagine. We encourage you to imagine - to explore, to dream, to achieve.