FRANKFORT – As students return to school, it is worth noting that some of Kentucky’s most successful academic programs have already wrapped up their work.
Several of these got their start in the 1980s, and they have since given thousands of our brightest middle and high school students a chance to come together in a college setting during the summer and learn in ways that extend beyond the traditional classroom while giving the students an early taste of life after high school.
The Governor’s Scholars Program (GSP) is perhaps the most well-known of these. It began in 1983 and has since served a little more than 30,000 students. About 1,100 soon-to-be high school seniors take part for five weeks each summer, traveling – at no cost to them – to one of several campuses across the commonwealth.
There are no grades or exams; instead, the students take part in immersive activities that cover everything from architecture to the visual arts.
One of the program’s original goals was to keep more of these gifted students in Kentucky after high school, and regular surveys indicate this has largely been accomplished. Almost three-fourths of the Governor’s Scholars in 2015, for example, stayed here for college, and 81 percent of all alumni with a known address are still living here in Kentucky.
Four years after Governor’s Scholars began, what is now known as The Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts was created. This program has since served more than 5,000 students, giving them a chance to learn and practice in such areas as drama; vocal and instrumental music; dance; creating writing; and musical theater.
The newest Governor’s school began five years ago and is centered on tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. Several dozen students take part each year to learn how to turn ideas into products and services, and they gain insight from those who have founded or support start-up companies.
There are two other long-standing academic programs active during the summer, but they are geared toward younger teenagers and Western Kentucky University hosts both. Those are the Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY) and the Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS).
In addition to these summer programs, Kentucky is also home to two specialty high schools that are putting a select group of high school juniors and seniors in a college setting during the school year.
WKU’s Gatton Academy has been called the nation’s best high school several times by Newsweek, while the Craft Academy, a similar school based at Morehead State University, opened three years ago this month.
Taken together, these programs play an important role when it comes to challenging our best and brightest throughout the year. It’s a relatively small investment, but it is one that will pay dividends for decades to come.
If you have any questions or comments about this or any other matter affecting the state, please let me know. My email is Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov, or you can leave a message for me or for any legislator by calling 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
Let me end by saying I hope all students – from preschool to post graduate – have a great school year, and I want to thank the teachers, school staffs and family members who are giving these students the tools they need to succeed.