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Project Talent, 55 years later

In 1960, the classes of 1960-63 at Pike County High School in Zebulon became part of Project Talent, a landmark study of 440,000 American teenagers. Project Talent has now launched a 58-year follow-up of its participants, focusing on unravelling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. The study included more than 400,000 teenagers from all walks of life and presented a snapshot of a generation coming of age on the cusp of a new era. It was the most comprehensive study of American high school students ever conducted. This week, 58 years since the original study was launched, participants will be sent a questionnaire and asked to take part in a follow-up study designed to learn how their lives have unfolded over the past five decades. Over two full days in the spring of 1960, Project Talent assessed the aptitudes and abilities, hopes and expectations of high school students from 1,353 schools across the country. The goal was to identify the unique strengths and interests of America’s young people and to ensure they were being guided into careers that would make the best use of their talents. Follow-up studies collected information on occupations, family formation, education and health. The study was developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and funded by the United States Office of Education. Project Talent is the only large-scale, nationally representative study that tracks participants from adolescence to retirement age. It helps researchers understand how experiences, environments, genetics and behaviors combine to influence how people age. The new follow-up study will have a special focus on memory and cognitive health in an effort to develop evidence-based policies to combat the looming Alzheimer’s crisis. Studies project that by 2050, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease will more than triple, reaching 16 million. The cost of caring for sufferers will exceed $1 trillion annually. ’The Project Talent generation is very important in the history of this country,’ said Susan Lapham, Project Talent’s Director. ‘Now, they have the opportunity to help us address one of the most pressing public health issues currently facing our country: the skyrocketing rate of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.’  In 1960, Project Talent was remarkable for the diversity of its participants, who represented every facet of American life. Researchers hope that the new Project Talent study will be just as diverse. Members of Pike County High School classes of 1960-1963 who are asked to participate in the follow-up study are strongly encouraged to complete the mail survey and share their experiences with researchers. Participants can call the project at 1-866-770-6077 or send an email to To find out more, visit the Project Talent website at

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