MCHS students attend Governor’s Honors
By Isabela Rzeznik
Summertime usually means that school is out and it is time to relax. The students who attend the Governor’s Honors Program at Valdosta State University in Valdosta will tell you that learning during the summer can be incredibly fun and eye opening. At least Harley Smith, rising junior, McKinlie Ramsey, rising senior and Mitchem Tuell, rising senior, all at Morgan County High School, certainly feel that way. Does visiting a farm for a field trip or learning about the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series sound like a typical school day?
The Governor’s Honors Program (GHP), which began in 1964, is a summer program for high-achieving 10th and 11th graders. The program previously lasted six weeks, but due to funding cuts, students now spend four weeks on the campus of VSU. The application process is unique, with students being nominated by teachers, as opposed to applying on their own, for one of 20 areas of study. Smith went for agriculture (environmental science and biotechnology) also known as the “aggies”, Ramsey went for communicative arts (English) also know as the “commies” and Tuell went for physics. Part of the application is also based off the students PSAT or SAT scores. There is an interview process, varying between majors, after which students are selected to go to Valdosta. Students from private, public and homeschool can be nominated to attend.
Tuell describes the program as, “All the good parts of school without the bad parts,” since grades are nonexistent and the focus is on learning about new, unusual subjects that would not necessarily be present in normal school. Of course, time spent learning is augmented by social life as well and all three students described that as their favorite part of the program. “I met new people every day,” said Smith. There was also an enormous amount of diversity among the participants, which the three students found compelling and exciting. Though there is a daily schedule, the program does foster a sense of independence in the students. For Smith, Tuell and Ramsey, GHP was their longest time away from home. Students are not allowed to leave campus, where they stay in the dorms, without parent or guardian permission and must be signed in and out. The agriculture students did leave campus for field trips. The experience also prepares the students for life while in college, helping them to balance time spent in the classroom with social time.
The GHP day for students is split between major courses and minor courses. There are also fitness options such as Boot Camp which begins at 6 a.m. along with other exercise activities. In the evenings, there are seminars, which vary greatly in their subject matter. Smith learned how to build a piñata during one she attended and Tuell said that one teacher showed “The Wizard of Oz” with the sound turned off and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album playing instead (the music and the film eerily match up perfectly). For participation, colored beads are awarded to decorate the I.D. tag the students must wear at all times. There were also concerts and plays of all types as well as events for certain majors to showcase projects. Tuell made a playable organ for physics while Smith presented a research project. Ramsey’s communication arts major did not require a project.
The real fun, according to the three students, was socializing with the other students from around Georgia. By the end of the month, the three had made friends for life as well as friends with similar goals and interests. “I want to go back and do it again,” said Ramsey. Unfortunately, GHP is a one time opportunity, so that as many gifted students as possible have the chance to attend. GHP may also face more funding cuts in the future. It is important to Smith, Ramsey and Tuell that future high school students have the same remarkable opportunity with GHP as they did.
Printed in the August 23, 2012 edition