Gov. Jack Markell speaks to Governor’s School for Excellence academic track students during their week on campus.

Growth experience

Governor's School for Excellence brings talented high school students to campus

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1:41 p.m., Aug. 14, 2013--For a week in the summer, some of Delaware’s brightest and most creative high school students call the University of Delaware home. The Governor’s School for Excellence, now in its 34th year, brought 125 students to campus where they took academic classes, worked in small musical and theatre ensembles and honed their skills in the visual arts.

The experience is often life changing for the students. For many, it is a growth experience as the first time away from family for an extended time.

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Students live in residence halls on the Newark campus and attend either the academic program — consisting of discussions, lectures, debates, and films revolving around a specific theme — or the visual and performing arts program, which culminates in a performance or public display of the students' work.

Students are nominated to participate in Governor's School through their schools, in a competitive application process.

Jason Thompson, coordinator for Governor’s School, notes that students consistently say that they are happy to attend a program with others with common interests.

Patrick Beane, an alumnus of the program who returned this summer to work as a resident assistant (RA), agrees. “Up until college, Governor’s School had been one of the best weeks of my life,” he says. “I got to meet people from all over the state who had, for the most part the exact same interests as I did. You were with other people who are interested in learning. In addition, you had interesting courses — courses you wouldn’t normally have in high school — and that was fantastic.”

Joseph Peterson and Amanda Chung, both of whom will be high school seniors in the fall, are also alumni of the program who took on RA duties this summer. Peterson says that his own positive experience with Governor’s School prompted him to apply for the junior RA position. “It was a great way to spend a week,” he says. “It gave us a taste of what college will be like and I thought that was helpful. It was like a backstage pass to UD, and I think I am actually interested in attending UD next year.”

Chung reports that returning to Governor’s School was very rewarding.  “Seeing people with smiles on their faces, overhearing them saying, ‘Oh, I loved this today… I can’t wait for this tomorrow,’ is great. It makes you feel so good that everyone is having a good time. You are not changing the world but you are changing some lives and seeing the changes is awesome.”

This year, the students in the academic track had a special visitor. Gov. Jack Markell visited a classroom and spoke to the students about globalization, one of the subjects they were studying. Markell briefed the students on some of the globalization issues his office has been working on and the students took the opportunity to ask him questions.

As parting advice, Markell encouraged the students to read the news and stay aware of what’s going on in the world. “If you are here at Governor’s School, it means there is a broader world that you are interested in,” said the governor, “but you’ve got to translate that. One of the reasons you will be a better choice than someone else when it comes to applying to college or applying to a job is that you are going to be able connect the dots. You are going to see something going on in one part of the world and you’ll be able to relate it to something you read about having taken place elsewhere.”

Almost all of the presenters and instructors for the program are University faculty. Lloyd Shorter, assistant professor of music at UD, has been teaching at Governor’s School for over 30 years, through the tenure of five Delaware governors. He currently coordinates the music program for Governor’s School. “The students never forget their time at Governor’s School,” he says.

Shorter notes that the program is a special opportunity for faculty as well as the students. “The faculty who teach in this program are great at transforming students on the edge of adulthood,” he says, “It is amazing to see how much the students’ musical skills accelerate in one week — a very intense week of work. There is an astronomical expansion of their musical skills and it is a great thing to be a part of it. We get as much enjoyment from watching the students develop as they do.”

Photos by Evan Krape

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