Summer education programs

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For many students, the end of the school year does not mean an end to time spent with a teacher.

In fact, hundreds work as hard during summer vacation as they do during the rest of the year.  Two of the most popular programs Kentucky offers are Governor’s Scholars and the Governor’s School for the Arts, both of which give select high school students a chance to spend several weeks on a college campus with others as driven as they are.

Governor’s Scholars began in 1983 with 230 students but now accepts 1,050 from across the state each year. All told, more than 22,000 have taken part.

These students study everything from agriculture and architecture to psychology and Spanish. Field trips are as diverse as visits to the ethanol plant in Hopkinsville and the National Quilt Museum in Paducah.

Based on a survey of last summer’s class, the program’s impact lasts well beyond the time they spend learning. Nearly 90 percent, for example, said they would be willing to take on more leadership responsibilities at school and in their community, and almost all of them would encourage other classmates to apply.

The Governor’s Scholars program appears to be playing a key role in keeping the Commonwealth’s best and brightest in the state for their postsecondary education. In the 1980s, fewer than 60 percent took college classes here, but the figure was above 80 percent for those who took part in the 2006 through 2008 programs. Incidentally, each scholar on average accepted more than $65,000 in four-year college scholarships in 2009.

The Governor’s School for the Arts operates in a similar fashion as its sister program, but on a smaller scale. It began in 1987, and now has nearly 4,000 alumni. Like Governor’s Scholars, there is a lot of competition to get accepted; in this case, more than 1,600 students audition for just 225 spots. The program is hosted at Transylvania University, and the focus is on such subjects as dance, drama, instrumental music and the visual arts. Graduates are eligible for scholarships from 20 colleges and universities.

In addition to these two programs, there are others across the state that also help students meet their full potential.

The Governor’s Minority Student College Preparation Program, for example, began a quarter-century ago and now oversees regional programs at many of our colleges and universities. These camps generally target area middle schoolers, and those who qualify have the opportunity to take an array of classes that will help them in high school and beyond.

Other opportunities can be found at such places as Western Kentucky University, which hosts the Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students. This offers more than two dozen different classes.

Western also has ties to two other programs that teach some of our most highly qualified students. Its Center for Gifted Studies, which celebrated its 30-year anniversary several weeks ago, has been long been a statewide advocate for gifted students.

The university’s Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky, meanwhile, is a unique high school that the General Assembly created for juniors and seniors from across the state who excel in those two subjects.  Though young – it just graduated its fourth class – the school has already exceeded our high expectations.  Recently, Newsweek called it the fifth best high school in the country.

As these programs show, there is a lot going on across the state academically during the two-plus months of summer vacation. In turn, that has helped give thousands of young Kentuckians opportunities that might have otherwise gone unrealized, and it has also given them some unforgettable memories along the way.

If you have any thoughts about this issue or any other affecting the state, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I hope to hear from you soon.

Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly. He may be reached by writing to Room 351C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601, or leave a message at (800) 372-7181 – TTY (800) 896-0305.