Fifty-one years after being selected to take part in the Project Talent study of American high school students, the classes of 1960-1963 from Mount Vernon High School are being asked to participate once again to share their stories in the historic study.

The follow-up will be in conjunction with the Mount Vernon School-wide reunion at noon on Saturday in the Mount Vernon-Enola High School cafeteria.

In 1960, Mount Vernon High School was one of only 17 schools in Arkansas selected to participate in this study, said Dr. Mary Harlan, who has been helping locate her classmates to participate in the follow-up of the study.

"We may have been the smallest school in Arkansas chosen for the study," said Harlan, chair and professor of the Department of Family & Consumer Sciences at the University of Central Arkansas. There were 21 graduates from Mount Vernon that year.

She remembered the initial survey and the follow-up surveys that lasted about 11 years, she said. She filled out a questionnaire as she began her first teaching job.

"But I hadn’t heard from them for years," she said until she got notice about the event coordinated with Mount Vernon’s reunion.Of the 41 classmates from the 1960-63 years, she has located all but about 20, she said.

She’s interested in the outcomes because she is involved with a geriatric nutrition grant with a special interest in aging populations.

Throughout the nation more than 400,000 students took part in Project Talent, a study of the aptitudes and abilities, hopes and expectations of high school students from across America.

The study was conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the United States Office of Education.

Now the original Project Talent participants, including Mount Vernon High School’s classes of 1960-1963, are being asked to tell their stories in a follow-up study being planned by AIR.

"The Project Talent generation is very important in the history of the country," said Sabine Horner, Project Talent’s Director of Outreach and Communications.

"They came of age during an era of great upheaval and they transformed the United States as we knew it. Project Talent is an opportunity to share their perspectives and experiences in a meaningful way that can benefit future generations."

Large studies that follow people from adolescence to retirement are both rare and extremely valuable, Horner said.

The studies allow researchers to make connections between early life experiences and later life outcomes. New information gained from a 50-year follow-up study can help researchers and policy makers understand how family and educational background impact the life course, up to and including the retirement process.

Researchers can also learn why certain people stay healthier and happier and are more able to enjoy their later life, Horner said.

Members of the classes of 1960-63 from Mount Vernon High School are being asked to participate in the follow-up study by attending a meeting on Saturday, following the school reunion or by contacting AIR to register their interest and provide details of where they can be contacted to receive further information. Contact the project at 1-866-770-6077 or email to projectalent50@air.org. The Project Talent’s website is www.projecttalent.org.