It is the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. that define and speak to the purpose of the Governor’s Scholars Program – “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Five students from Rowan County Senior High School did just that this past summer, they allowed their minds to be stretched by new experiences. Luke Gagliano, Christina Grimes, Madison Ortega, Ansley Perryman and Elizabeth Stamper all took part in the 2019 Governor’s Scholars Program, a program that gave the students the experience of a lifetime and something they will remember for many summers to come.
The Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP) is an intense learning program, offering students the chance to delve into areas that they would not normally experience during the regular school year or hone skills that time may not allow in a regular school setting. The program also allows the students the opportunity to share ideas, opinions and talents with fellow students from across the Commonwealth as well as learn from professors and masters in their craft whose responsibility it is to challenge the students.
GSP was held at three venues, Bellarmine University in Louisville, Centre College in Danville and Morehead State University. The mission of the Governor’s Scholars Program is “to enhance Kentucky’s next generation of civic and economic leaders and to create models of educational excellence for teachers and students.” Each student has the chance to select areas of study that interests them. The GSP administrators pour over these selections and then assign each student to an area of study. The intensive 5-week summer residency program is designed to challenge students to think on a higher level, encouraging the students to discuss a variety of issues.
Christina Grimes, daughter of Connie Grimes, attended the GSP program at Centre College. Her main area of study was architectural design because “I have a big interest in math and art so I thought this would be an interesting learning experience, combining things that I enjoy.”
Luke Gagliano, son of Shannon Malone and Joe Gagliano, also participated in the GSP program at Centre College. He chose as his main area of study Business, Accounting and Entrepreneurship so that he could better understand what goes into starting a business as well as getting a grasp of investments in the stock market.
Madison Ortega, daughter of Sheryl Ortega, who attended Bellarmine University’s Governor’s Scholar Program, chose to study Communications and Vocal Theory because “as someone who aspires to have a career that incorporates public speaking, this area of study was right up my alley.”
Elizabeth Stamper, daughter of James and Leslie Watts and Stan Stamper, also attended the Governor’s Scholar Program at Bellarmine University. Her area of study was Cultural Anthropology. Her reasoning was simple: “As I plan to pursue a career in the political field, I thought it would be interesting to explore human diversity and what it is that all human beings have in common.”
Ansley Perryman, daughter of Kim Reeder, stayed local and took part in the GSP experience at Morehead State University. She chose to study Spanish Language and Culture, in part, because she spent time abroad last year in Chile. “Language has been my main interest and something that I want to continue studying in the future.”
In describing the classes, Madison Ortega described them as “allowing her to have more open-minded, intellectual conversations” which, in turn, helped her to “think creatively.” Many of the students enjoyed getting away from the focus on grades and concentrating on learning not just from their teachers, but also from their fellow scholars. Ansley Perryman noted that “we had much more freedom to pursue things and subjects that interested us.” The hands-on activities and field trips added to the learning experience at the Governor’s Scholar Program.
The students were each asked to find one word or one phrase to describe their GSP experiences. Many students chose the word “Community,” to describe the spirit of the Governor’s Scholars Program. Luke Gagliano stated, “Over the 5 weeks of GSP, you meet individuals from all over the state and build lasting relationships.”
Christina Grimes, who also selected “community” to describe her GSP experience noted, “These people, this community, had my back and gave me their unconditional love for 5 weeks and haven’t stopped since.”
Elizabeth Stamper remarked, “This place and these people are something that make me smile. So many different opinions, backgrounds and idea, but from day one, we truly were a community, and that is just so special.”
Ansley Perryman selected the phrase “What you put in is what you get out” because GSP gives us the opportunity to act as individuals.”
The Governor’s Scholars Program requires students to be open to new ideas and to challenge themselves. At the same time, though, the summer learning experience gives students the opportunity to meet new people, people their own age who may become lifelong friends.
When asked to describe their best memory of being part of GSP, Madison Ortega stated, “I will never forget sitting with a group of new faces, who I now consider to be my best friends, on the third day at lunch and laughing uncontrollably, thinking to myself that these friendships will last a lifetime."
Christina Grimes’ memories of GSP include looking back at the “50,000 minutes of GSP, every meaningful class, every Happy Friday, every intellectual risk, every laugh and even the tears, every experience, because they all were the best.”
For Elizabeth Stamper, playing the fiddle with the granddaughter of her GSP teacher at the showcase and meeting his family was one of her favorite memories of the 5-week experience.
The hugs from new friends and sharing tears with them at the conclusion of the 5-week GSP experience were part of Ansley Perryman’s favorite memories. “I will never forget my time with them or the experiences that we had.”
When asked if these students would recommend experience of attending the Governor’s Scholars Program to their fellow RCSHS students, it was unanimous. “Absolutely!” “Yes, with my whole heart.” “Undoubtedly.” Elizabeth Stamper then added, “I was given the chance to hear new points of view, and it really has molded me into the person I want to be.”
Christina Grimes noted, “GSP led me to discover different backgrounds and ideas. It taught me how to remember everyone has a story and everyone is worthy of being heard. GSP was such a positive learning experience.”
For Luke Gagliano, Christina Grimes, Madison Ortega, Ansley Perryman, and Elizabeth Stamper, the Governors Scholars Program has stretched their minds, broadened their horizons, and has given them experiences that will be with them for years to come.