GSP – the experience of a lifetime

GSP students Katie Bonney, Jon Jenkins, David Kim, & Grace Lewis

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once stated, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”    Four students from Rowan County Senior High School did just that this past summer, they reached out eagerly this past summer and were rewarded with new and rich experiences.  These four students – Katie Bonney, Jon Jenkins, David Kim and Grace Lewis – took part in the 2018 Governor’s Scholars Program.  The program gave the students the experience of a lifetime, 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, Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Murray State University in Murray 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.”  Both Katie Bonney, daughter of Steve and Tammy Collins Bonney and David Kim, son of Euijian and Myung Sun Kim, attended the GSP program at Northern Kentucky University while Jon Jenkins, son of Greg and Genny Jenkins, and Grace Lewis, daughter of Tom and Lesley Lewis, attended the GSP program hosted by Murray State University.


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.  Jon Jenkins chose to study Philosophy because, as he stated, “I have always thought philosophy was interesting so I was happy to learn more.”  Katie Bonney chose to study Creative Writing because she wanted to develop her writing skills and ideas that she had never written down on paper.  David Kim’s area of study at GSP was Engineering because “math and science have always been my strongest subjects and I plan on going into engineering in college.”  Grace Lewis chose to study Cultural Anthropology because of her love of music and culture.  “Since I’m very active in music but don’t get to do much with culture, I decided it would be better for me to explore something I love but know less about.”


In describing the classes, David Kim described them as “being more hands on” whose “purpose is to expose you to real life application rather than testing.”   Katie Bonney noted that the classes’ “bigger emphasis was on what you wanted to get out of ylur studies” rather than following a stated curriculum.  Jon Jenkins stated, “No grades, zero stress, intelligent conversations, rational college discussions and debates, and very respectful environment.”  For Grace Lewis, the structure of the class played a big role in the experience.  “All of my classes were set up in circles to maximize opportunity for discussion.  We learned about our roles as global citizens, roles in our communities, and worked on individual discovery and growth.”


The students were each asked to find one word or one phrase to describe their GSP experiences.  For David Kim, that phrase was “Reject the single story,” which was the phrase at NKU that seemed to embody the spirit of the Governor’s Scholars Program.  “Everybody from the faculty and staff to then office workers to the students are all so accepting, and nobody judges on first impressions.”


Katie Bonney, who also attended NKU this past summer, chose the same theme as her way to describe her GSP experience.  The phrase “Exemplified our search to really know people and topics, not just the way they appeared at first glance.”


The word that Jon Jenkins was freeing.  “The freedom of expression and looking after yourself was the best part, and the classes were enlightening to the mind.”


For Grace Lewis, finding a word or a phrase was difficult.  “No matter how many alumni you ask about it (GSP), research you do about the program, emails you send to the staff there, etc., you won’t be able to understand.  You just have to experience it for yourself.”


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, Katie Bonney chose classic movie nights with other GSP students.  “A huge group of us laughing and crying at the same time, and the in-depth discussions my friends and I had on the way back to our dorms are things I’ll remember.”


Jon Jenkins chose his Philosophy class as his best GSP memory.  “John Wilcox is one of the best teachers I have ever had.”


Grace Lewis found it difficult to choose just one memory, but she spoke of the friends that she made at GSP.  “Every moment with these people was special to me in some way.  The things you do at GSP are important, but the people you meet are what really change your life.”


David Kim had a similar answer, saying, “All my life I have lived on a small town where everybody knows everybody, so meeting new people all across the Commonwealth was fun and exciting.  I have met people who I know will be lifelong friends.”


When asked if these students would recommend experience of attending the Governor’s Scholars Program to their fellow RCSHS students, David Kim answered, “Yes.  It makes you think deeper, have an open mind to things, and if you are from a smaller town, you get to meet all kinds of new people.  It can also help you decide what you want to do in life.”


Katie Bonney also recommended the GSP program and added, “It let me be independent and learn more than I thought I could in 5 weeks.”


Jon Jenkins was very succinct in his recommendation, remarking, “You would be silly to not want to go.”


Grace Lewis wholeheartedly recommended the GSP program, saying, “It’s crazy how much you can learn in 5 weeks.  The whole experience is so unique and fulfilling.  I strongly encourage every student who is even remotely interested to apply.  It’ll be the best 5 weeks of your life.”


Oliver Wendell Holmes was quoted as saying, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”  For Katie Bonney, Jon Jenkins, David Kim and Grace Lewis, the Governors Scholars Program stretched their minds, broadened their horizons, and gave them an experience that will be with them for years to come.

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