Five weeks of my last summer of high school… committed to school? Not what I was really wanting to do! When I found out I was accepted into the Governor’s Scholar Program, I had very mixed emotions. I had heard what a great opportunity it was, but it seemed like a long time to be away from Owensboro, friends, family…and ROMP. I thought the other scholars there would be boring and nerdy; I feared the classes would entail homework and extensive readings, and there wouldn’t be any down time.
My parents pushed me to apply for this opportunity. It starts in early fall and doesn’t end until after Spring Break, it’s a long process that feels someone is stealing your identity. To apply, students have to fill in their personal information, their involvement in clubs and extracurriculars, awards, service, solicit two recommendations, and write an essay. The applications are then reviewed by the school, who selects the best thirteen to be sent to the state level, where the top applicants are chosen. I didn’t even know what GSP was and I found myself spending a lot of time working on the application!
This is a state funded program where approximately 1000 rising seniors from all across Kentucky reside at one of three college campuses for 5 weeks of their summer. These “scholars” as they are referred to, take several classes of their choice, and several random classes. Aside from class time, scholars meet and become friends with other students, travel across the region on immersive field trips, and participate in tons of activities, both formal and informal. There is a lot more social time than class time, thankfully! This summer eight of our OHS students attended GSP, at Centre College, Bellarmine, and Morehead. I was assigned to Centre, along with Mary Grace Heminway and JaSing Paukum.
When I got to campus, my opinion turned 180 degrees. My dorm hall had 19 other guys, and a Resident Advisor that was a college student there. We bonded quickly over some competitions including the Dorm Olympics and the myth of the Fake Tree with the other dorms, and the awkwardness of living with a bunch of strangers was quickly gone. The scholars were awesome and friendly, the classes were discussion based and more interesting than regular school classes, and we had a ton of down time to hang out with friends and have fun. I was assigned to Political and Legal Studies where we discussed the most pressing issues of the day, and reviewed works from several authors and journalists. We went on many field trips such as the state capital to talk with state congressmen for hours, and to Lexington to go set up a house from scratch for a family of refugees arriving the next day. My teacher was a professor from Oklahoma Baptist University.
I was randomly assigned a class called The Hidden Life of Trees. At first, this sounded terrible and boring, the first day we actually had to “interview” a tree by ourselves for 30 minutes. I thought this teacher was crazy! It ended up being my favorite class. I absolutely loved learning about nature and what lies beneath the surface of trees. We had many discussions, hands on activities and many field trips, including going to an orchard, a distillery, and to a forest sanctuary. This class was taught by an AP Biology teacher from Boyle County.
My favorite part of GSP wasn’t the classes, wasn’t the dorm life, or the food, but it was the community we as a campus built. I made so many good friends that I know will be lifelong friends. We would play pickup basketball, play hours and hours of card games I had never heard of, and personally my favorite, hammocking in trees all across campus. With all the down time we had we made up games such as extreme hammocking and held competitions like “Guac-off” and a head of lettuce eating contest.
There were many different clubs you could be a part of. I decided I wanted to experience the game of cricket (the sport). It was coached by a professor and all of us that participated, loved it. I also went to a few yoga and meditation classes which were interesting and relaxed me. My favorite club, however, was juggling club. Before i went to GSP I had no clue how to juggle. After a club meetings, I would consider myself somewhat of a professional.
I am not writing to brag about my wonderful experience this summer, but to convince you to apply for GSP. I had the best experience of my life and want others to have the chance to have it as well. This program isn’t for everyone, you have to enjoy learning and be willing to give up part of your summer for an unknown experience. But it is worth every minute. You have so much freedom there and it truly a college experience without the homework. With a roommate and an RA, eating at the dining hall, scholars have a lot of freedom to hang out and get to know each other. There are so many new traditions that we made there such as the spicy pole and the Nevin Nation Army that will always be a reminder of how much fun I had. There is obviously an oversight by the staff, but that never seemed to hinder our fun. This program changed my life and I really hope that after reading this, you apply to the Governor’s Scholar Program.