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Governor's Scholars

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By James Roberts

Nine went. Nine came back. But the Taylor County and Campbellsville high students who returned from their summer in the Governor's Scholars Program were not the same as when they left.

"You come back a completely different person," said Taylor County senior Maci Christie, who studied drama at Centre College.

This year, seven Taylor County High and two Campbellsville High students attended the program, which took place at three different Kentucky universities over the course of five weeks.

Governor's Scholars provides a level playing field, said Campbellsville senior Meredith Haley, who studied astronomy at Morehead State University. There are no cliques. Everyone is involved in various activities. All are away from home with few recognizable faces around them.

But friendships form fast, said Campbellsville senior Auburn Wigginton, who studied Russian language and culture at Centre College. The scholars quickly open up and find they have plenty in common.

"You create your own family," said Taylor County senior Tyler Thomas, who studied politics and law at Morehead.

Governor's Scholars form a tight knit community in just five weeks, said Taylor County High senior Andrew Ford, who studied politics and law at Morehead. Ford and the other Governor's Scholars said they still keep in touch with the other students they met.

"You get to meet so many other people," he said. "These are friendships I will carry with me for the rest of my life."

Stories of past GSP experiences are well circulated at both local high schools, enticing those between their junior and senior years to give the program a try.

"It's something that I'd always heard about and I wanted to experience for myself," Haley said.

Others, such as Taylor County senior Morgan Rose, who studied journalism and mass media at Bellarmine University, went for other reasons.

"I wanted to get away and do something different this summer."

All say the experience was worth it.

"It was such a great experience," Wigginton said. "It lived up to all my expectations."

For Hannah Ellis, a Taylor County senior who studied drama at Bellarmine, it was more than she'd expected.

"It's kind of like school, but it's better than school."

Academics, as it turns out, is only a small part of the program.

"It's so much more than an academic experience," Rose said.

While the Governor's Scholars do broaden their horizons academically, they also take part in community, civic and social activities and in the process, Rose said, they learn more about themselves.

Governor's Scholars learn to live on their own, said Sammantha Clark, a Taylor County student who majored in agribusiness and biotech at Morehead.

"You are more responsible because you are forced to be," Rose said.

The forced responsibility, she said, was a result of the independence the students have at GSP.

"That's one thing I miss about it. You have rules and curfews, but, overall, you decide," Ellis said.

Among the things Governor's Scholars participated in was community service.

"We had day camps for refugees from Africa," Ford said. "We had one family from Iraq."

Rose said her group traveled to a youth shelter in Louisville once a week.

At Bellarmine, Ellis and her fellow Governor's Scholars organized a blood drive - the first hosted by the university at which 16-year-olds were able to donate blood. In the end, the event was the biggest blood drive Bellarmine had ever had.

As for their choice of majors, some opted to explore possible career paths, while others just wanted to have fun.

Taylor County senior Shelby Ewing's major was film studies. While she doesn't have an ambition to be a filmmaker, she was interested in the subject. As part of the course, she wrote, cast, directed and edited her own short film.

Ford's major, politics and law, opened his eyes to the realities of the political process.

"I feel much more informed now."

Rose's major of journalism and mass media is a field she intends to pursue.

"I've always had a passion for writing, but you always have that sense of doubt."

At Governor's Scholars, Rose interviewed other scholars and wrote news stories. Her group visited The Courier-Journal and Wave 3, giving her more insight into the operation of a newsroom. The experience only solidified her goal of becoming a journalist.

"This is really what I want to do."

While it is not her career choice, Haley wanted to do something fun and decided astronomy would be a perfect choice.

"Astronomy has always been one of my interests. I've always loved it."

In the end, the five weeks proved invaluable to all nine local students who attended.

"If you have the opportunity, you should take it," Ellis said. "It's an experience. You gain so much as a person while you're there."

Rose said GSP offers numerous opportunities for students to step out of their comfort zone and that's a good thing.

"It allows you to grow in so many ways."

Ewing agrees, saying the anonymity in the early days of the program means no one has any expectations. As a result, she said, you're not afraid to try or say something out of character.

And of all the things the Governor's Scholars experienced this summer, one thing was absent - homesickness.

"There was no time to miss anything," Christie said.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.