Governor’s Scholars Program opens minds, strengthens ties to state

John Roberts
John Roberts

The 2016 Governor’s Scholars Program, a five-week residential program for rising high school seniors, ends this weekend on the Northern Kentucky University campus. Every summer, three college campuses host roughly one thousand of Kentucky’s best and brightest. The program’s goal is to “enhance the next generation of Kentucky’s civic and economic leaders” by providing a mentally stimulating environment that encourages introspection, intellectual curiosity and free inquiry.

Scholars are encouraged to pursue their potential as far as possible, and the program opens up a variety of scholarship opportunities. GSP has had a positive effect on the lives of more than 27,000 students and their families since the program’s inception in 1983.

As a former scholar, I know how powerful this program is.

It offers a vision of what education can and should be, and acts as the catalyst for personal growth and the creation of understanding between people of different backgrounds, belief systems and worldviews. Put simply, it changes the lives of the people who participate in it, and leaves an indelible mark on them.

GSP is funded and supported by the governor, state legislature and the private community. With the reality of state education funding cuts, it is more important than ever that it continues to receive support. Kentucky has the largest and strongest GSP in the nation, and has enjoyed the support of legislators for nearly more than 30 years.

The program combines traditional classes and areas of focus such as engineering, dramatic expression and political and legal issues with more open-ended classes on sleeping and dreaming, the process of decision-making and what it means to truly be human. That creates a robust academic schedule that challenges scholars to concentrate less on grades and performance and more on the acquisition of knowledge and skills that can be used to solve real-world problems.

It also attempts to promote diversity and understanding by asking scholars to participate in a seminar experience. This time is devoted to learning about themselves, examining personal beliefs, setting goals and exploring diversity, both on campus and in the state. Through a variety of group activities, team-building exercises and discussions about topics like stereotypes, values and contemporary social and political issues, scholars are encouraged and challenged to understand more about themselves, their peers and the world.

One goal of the program is to accept students from all 120 counties every summer, and to strive for racial and ethnic diversity. It attempts to create a unique community experience that shows scholars how important their differences are. This helps students to respect one another, and inculcates them with a love of our state.

The Governor’s Scholars Program is good for students, good for schools and good for the commonwealth and I hope it will continue to serve Kentucky for years to come.

John Roberts of Lexington is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky.