Governor's Scholars reflect on their experiences: Part 1
Written by Leigh Ivey
DANVILLE, KY— Nearly five weeks ago, 348 Kentucky rising high school seniors, many of them entirely unknown to one another, arrived on Centre College's campus for the 26th annual Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program. A month later, these students have come to view one another as members of an incredibly tight-knit, engaged community. This is the first of two stories reflecting on the 2009 Governor's Scholars Program at Centre. Look for Part 2 next week.
With only a few days left before they return to their hometowns and typical summer activities, the scholars find themselves preparing to leave behind an experience that has provided them with knowledge, support, challenges, friendships and innumerable memories.
GSP, which began in 1983 on Centre's campus, provides outstanding rising high school seniors from across the state the opportunity to spend five weeks at one of three Kentucky colleges, where they are challenged with unique courses in the sciences, humanities and social studies while experiencing residential life.
"One misconception about GSP is that it's an academic program," says Dr. John Kinkade, director of scholars for GSP and Centre assistant professor of English and humanities. "But we don't provide credentials. We provide an experience. That experience is more intellectual than academic. The life changes that take place at GSP come from relationships with other scholars, with faculty and staff and with new ideas."
The scholars agree. As they reflect on their time at GSP, many believe they've been greatly changed by the people they've met and the friendships they've formed.
"I never thought you could make such close friends in five weeks," says Morehead native Nastiya Perevozchikova. "I was told before I came here that it would happen, but I didn't believe it was possible. Five weeks seems like so long before you get here, but then it just goes so fast."
Like Perevozchikova, Angela Woods, of Carrollton, and Alex Taylor, of Pikeville, were surprised by how quickly friendships blossomed.
"I liked how we were immediately open with each other," Woods says. "I thought it might take a week at least to make friends, but after the first day, we were all pretty comfortable with each other." Taylor shares this sentiment, saying that his favorite aspect of GSP was "how close everyone has gotten. It's such a big community, but everyone has just bonded together."
Numerous scholars believe that this bond is made possible by the students' shared goals and interests.
"We're living in a community of scholars," Woods says. "You're with people who are like you, and it's fun to interact with people who are challenging you while they're challenging themselves."
Surrounded by other students who are not only exceptionally bright but also open-minded and encouraging, the scholars are able to share their ideas without hesitation.
"It's nice to meet people who you have a lot in common with and who don't reject what you say or don't understand," says Lexington native Rachel Whiteheart. Jourdan Parks, of Louisville, agrees, saying that her favorite aspect of GSP is her seminar class, where "we can be open and talk about anything, and no one judges you."
This kind of closeness is something many of the GSP scholars say is something they will greatly miss when they leave campus.
"What I'll miss most is the environment provided by GSP," says Will Kennedy of Louisville. "I'll miss the people and the creativity and the intellectually advanced community."
Although Berea native Elizabeth Heyrman says she will also miss GSP at Centre and her close friends there, she realizes that her experiences on campus have helped her grow and have taught her "things about how to interact with people, which I'll be able to apply when I go home."
Home is an idea that has been transformed for several scholars. During their five weeks at GSP, many have come to regard Centre as a kind of home.
"People say they're 'going home' now," Perevozchikova says. "And they mean they're going to their dorm room."
Like many past scholars who have later enrolled as students at Centre, many of those on campus this summer can picture themselves returning to the College as first-year students. Whiteheart and Flemingsburg native Seth Colgan are two such scholars, saying that their weeks on campus have made them feel comfortable and have allowed them to picture themselves as students here. Gina Palazzo, of Lakeside Park, agrees, saying that she "hadn't really been seriously considering Centre before coming here, but now I'm definitely considering it."
As the final days of GSP draw near, many students have become filled with conflicting emotions.
"I've never felt so excited to go home and so sad to be leaving somewhere at the exact same time," Palazzo says. "Never in my life have I felt those two things at the same time so strongly." It's a feeling shared among most of this summer's scholars, and it's one that is growing stronger by the hour.
Kinkade was right when he says life changes would occur this summer. The scholars have gained not only academic knowledge but also invaluable life lessons, and they believe they'll leave campus as individuals changed for the better.
"I've learned how to be a better student and to be prepared for the future rather than just thinking about graduating high school," says James Hawkins of Owingsville. He also notes the importance of being taught "to have patience and that sometimes there's just no easy way to do something—you just have to do it."
It's a lesson that the scholars must remember as they struggle with the sadness of saying goodbye. Like Hawkins, however, they've learned that they must overcome life's difficulties and remember that their experiences on Centre's campus with each other, the GSP faculty and staff, and the countless new ideas they have encountered have prepared them for the brightest of futures.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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