A little more than 30 years ago, Kentucky was facing a difficult problem: Too many of our brightest students were looking elsewhere after graduating high school.
Education leaders decided that something needed to be done to counteract that trend, so in the summer of 1983, on the campus of Centre College, they debuted the Governor’s Scholars Program, which gave 230 high school students from across the state an opportunity unlike anything they could have experienced at home.
Since then, more than 24,000 students have taken part, a figure which will grow by more than 1,000 after next month.
By all accounts, it appears the program has been more than successful at keeping these students in Kentucky once they reach adulthood. The 2010 class, for example, had 82 percent of its students attend college in Kentucky, with each accepting an average of more than $62,000 in four-year scholarships. Nearly three-fourths of older alumni who were surveyed said they were still living in Kentucky, another positive sign.
In the three decades since the Governor’s Scholars Program began, several other educational programs have taken root, including one starting this month.
That one is known as the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs, which is being held on the campus of Georgetown College. The 50 high school students taking part were chosen because of their desire to learn more about the world of business and what it takes to turn an idea into reality.
These students will be touring some up-and-coming companies; hearing from entrepreneurs and other professionals who help these start-up businesses grow; and pursuing their own ideas to see what might develop. This camp is designed to foster the same independent spirit that led to such worldwide brands as Apple, Google and Facebook.
Another statewide educational program – the Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts – began in 1987, and since then, more than 4,500 students have taken part. The three-week program immerses these students in such fields as creative writing, drama, dance, architecture and several types of music and art.
The Governor’s Minority Student College Preparation Program, meanwhile, began in the mid-1980s, and is designed to help students in grades sixth through eighth be better prepared for high school. In 2011-12, this program – spread across Kentucky’s public postsecondary system – served more than 1,100 students, many of whom took part not just in the summer but throughout the year.
Western Kentucky University hosts two other programs targeted at younger teenagers. Like the Governor’s Scholars Program, the Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY) also began in 1983. It gives 200 students an opportunity to live and study on campus each summer. The Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students offers similar opportunities, with courses ranging from the arts to math and science.
WKU, it is worth noting, is also home to the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, which puts some of our most talented students in a college setting for their last two years of high school. Although it just opened its doors in 2007, Newsweek magazine has already called it the nation’s best high school for two years in a row.
As all of these programs show, summer is not necessarily a quiet time for many of Kentucky’s students, and it is paying off for them when school starts each fall. Our goal now is to see if there are ways we can get even more involved so they can experience the same success.