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Each year across Kentucky hundreds of high school students between their junior and senior years apply to attend the prestigious Governor's Scholars Program (GSP) that includes five weeks of college level classwork at selected Kentucky colleges and universities.
To say that LaRue County High School has been well represented in GSP is an understatement for, since 2005, 100 percent of its applicants have been accepted into the program.
In 2005 and again in 2006, all six LCHS applicants attended GSP and from 2007 through 2012, all seven applicants were selected.
The highly-competitive selection process begins with a school committee that includes the principal, gifted/talented coordinator, superintendent's designee, two teachers, a board member, guidance counselor, and a community/business partner. This committee scores original applications and decides those students whose applications will be forwarded to GSP staff.
In addition to an academic profile that includes difficulty of course load, grade point average, and at least one standardized test score, the application requires an outline of all extracurricular activities, a history of volunteer service, and a list of job positions held. Teacher recommendations include both evaluation and descriptions of the student's performance and potential. The final component of the application is an original essay.
“The number of applicants the local committee can send on to the state level is based on enrollment,” said Amanda Reed, district instructional supervisor and superintendent's designee on the committee. “We can typically send in six but there have been a few years where our enrollment was over 200 which allowed us to send seven.”
“That's how many we can send to the state for consideration, not how many we will get in,” Reed continued.
The local committee members score applications according to the same rubric used at the state level (a requirement of the process). Applicants' names are whited out and are not discussed at any time during the process.
“We don't know who they are until after we make our final selections,” said Reed. “We score them on our own time, and then hold one committee meeting where we review our scores and make the final decisions.”
One of the reasons selection to state has been so successful is that guidance counselor Kristi Wright informs the juniors about the program early in the year, showing them how GSP benefits students in many ways and also giving advice on completing their applications.
Seniors who attended GSP the previous year discuss the program with current 11th graders to encourage them to apply.
Chelsea Blair, a senior whose focus area at GSP last year was visual arts, liked the college atmosphere.
“I enjoyed staying in the dorm and having a little bit of freedom because it was basically like getting a head start on the college experience,” she said. “GSP taught me what it was like to be a true scholar and to want to learn as much as possible.”
“The program taught me study habits and strategies that I will definitely use in college,” she continued. “All in all, it was a great experience.”
“Our students take this process seriously because they realize the importance of being accepted into the program,” said Paul Mullins, who has been principal of the school since 2005. “I think the students who have attended the previous year are the best sellers of GSP.”
The program, according to its website, strives to enhance Kentucky's next generation of civic and economic leaders and to create models of educational excellence for teachers and students. Established in 1983, the program provides academic and personal growth through the balance of a strong liberal arts program with a full co-curricular and residential life experience.
The 2012 GSP will be held on the campuses of Bellarmine University in Louisville, Centre College in Danville, and Murray State University in Murray. At those sites, the scholars will study a three-fold core curriculum:
Focus Area: a “major” subject of study, assigned according to scholar preference as indicated on the application.
General Studies: an area of study assigned by staff to challenge the scholars. Courses frequently include service-learning components in the community.
Seminar: a discussion-based small group session. Emphasis is placed on respectful debate and discussion. Scholars are encouraged to ask probing questions.
Faculty and staff also invite a variety of speakers and performers from a range of disciplines and pursuits to visit campus. Carefully organized field trips, special events, and a film series also contribute to the comprehensive educational atmosphere in which scholars are challenged not only to examine, but also to nurture their sense of learning and leadership.