Following are selected excerpts from essays solicited in a 2011 survey of Governor’s School alumni.
Kimrey Woodard Rhinehardt (1990), Vice President for Federal Relations, UNC System: I grew up in a great North Carolina town that gave me a great start in life. Our county was not rich, and it was not poor, but we certainly couldn’t compete with the likes of Wake, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, New Hanover and other wealthier counties. Governor’s School meant that kids like me could have access to the same kind of resources that kids in Wake and others did. It changed the way I see the future. Rather than stay in my comfort zone, I now ask not just why – but why not?
Kelly Michelle White (1997), High School English, Journalism, and Creative Writing teacher, Hibriten High School, Lenoir, NC: Governor’s School was my first introduction into a true academic environment, a place where thinking and learning was encouraged for its own sake and not just for a grade. Governor’s School made me want to inspire that kind of learning in others. It’s definitely one of the reasons I became a teacher.
Matt Flowers (1994), Hendrick Chevrolet in Cary N.C.: I will never forget that summer, one of the best of my life. For me having grown up in a somewhat small town, as many of the students do, it was my first real taste of diversity. Getting to meet so many unique and intelligent people in one place truly opened my eyes. New ideas were everywhere; things that may have never crossed my mind were presented to me at a young age. Many adults do not get the opputunity to be exposed to such diversity and different ways of thinking until they’re too set in their ways. Being exposed at a younger age gave me a great head start to the success I’ve been able to achieve. Even though I did not complete college, education is a peg for climbing to success; I have been able to use my people and service skills to succeed in my own right. Dedication to public service, and being a people person, is necessary to achieve success – and for me, these skills started that summer at Governor’s School. I truly hope we can save the program, for you cannot put a price tag on early education and diversity in today’s world. We are moving torward a global society, and Governor’s School teaches the skills our young people need.
Michael Moseley (1969), Retired NC State Government Employee: I attended the Governor’s School during the summer following my sophomore year in high school; I was the first person from my high school and the first African American from Lenoir County to be so honored. At the time, I was attending an all-black high school. Thus, my attendance at Governor’s School was my first significant exposure to individuals from other races and backgrounds. This opened my eyes to a world that was previously unknown to me. As a result of this incredible experience, when my local school system was desegregated and the high schools within the city later merged my senior year, I was elected to serve as the co-president of the SGA the initial year of the new school’s existence. The Governor’s School experience also allowed me to further develop my vocal music skills, which later resulted in my admission to UNC-CH as a vocal music major. Interestingly, several of my music professors at UNC-CH were on faculty at the Governor’s School while I was there. Likewise, my psychology instructor at the Governor’s School was appointed principal of my high school, beginning his tenure my senior year as I led the student body. Above everything else, the Governor’s School challenged me to think differently, to analyze things more critically, and to appreciate all people for their uniquenesses as well as their commonalities.
Prajwal Ciryam (2001), Graduate/medical student: Governor’s School was a wonderful opportunity to engage intellectually and socially with a remarkable group of people at a young age. Growing up in a rural part of the state, I had few other opportunities in high school to connect with so many talented students with such a diverse set of interests. I remember my Governor’s School days fondly — for the friendships, the intense conversations, and the spirited discussions. Governor’s School was amongst the first and best of my experiences with non-stop open and thoughtful intellectual engagement, and I am very grateful to have had such exposure while in high school. It is a program that is valuable especially for kids who come from poor or rural areas, and who might not be able to have such an experience without state support.
Linwood Tyrone Holt (1965), Law: I attended segregated schools in Alamance County through the completion of high school in 1967. The Governor’s School was my first experience attending school with white students. The summer at GS was an eye-opening experience, and inspired me to achieve success through education and hard work. It allowed me to experience a broad and high level of education, and gave me the confidence to achieve my goal of completing college and becoming a lawyer. Following my summer at GS, I was never the same again — it empowered me to achieve great things and to feel that nothing was outside of my grasp. I hope that the legislature will continue to allow young people in North Carolina to have access to this resource.
Margaret Corrinne Linak (2001), Graduate Student – Research Assistant: The North Carolina Governor’s School opened my eyes and introduced me to a much broader view of education and learning than I had ever been exposed to before. Never would I have been exposed to such a varied and sundry collection of philosophy, thinking, and people if I had not attended Governor’s School. Although I have continued along my career path (towards university professor) in engineering and mathematics (I attended for mathematics), the broad experiences that I had that summer have stayed with me over the past 10 years. I still fondly think of my time that summer, remembering even specific lessons that I learned there, and know that it is still having the same effect on its students today. Due to the exposure to different people and ideas from Governor’s School, when I first started at NCSU, I decided that I would strive for more than the traditional technical lessons of an engineer. This desire led me to take a wide variety of courses, attend lectures, travel abroad, and volunteer to expand my world view, even as I learned the intricacies of my technical field. I am certain that the diversity this contributed to my application allowed me to be accepted to the top chemical engineering graduate program in the world in 2006. In addition, the spark ignited by Governor’s School to broaden my understanding has been particularly helpful here at the University of Minnesota, as it has allowed me to work on multi-disciplinary research areas that some of my more traditionally trained colleagues are not qualified for. I am in the unique position to work in the cross-fields of computer science, chemical engineering, genetics, and mathematics, and this has made me a much better researcher and scientist today. In all the intense semesters, in a variety of institutes both here in the United States and around the globe, and in the now 22 years of formal education that I have attained, Governor’s School is clearly the most rewarding, the most enlightening, and the most life-changing one that I have experienced. I thank those people that made Governor’s School and my wonderful experience there possible: the students, the teachers, and particularly the legislators that have supported this unique and important program in North Carolina.
Carolyn K. Merritt (1996), Clinical Nurse: My attendance at Governor’s School gave me an invaluable opportunity to network and brainstorm with the best and brightest. Not only did I gain a broader perspective and develop critical thinking and creative problem solving skills, but I also learned to challenge myself and apply myself in ways I could never learn in the typical classroom. I gave up full event passes to all the equestrian events at the ’96 Atlanta Olympics in order to attend Governor’s School – and I would not change it for the world! I am extremely proud to say that I attended GSW, and I hope that one day my daughter will have the opportunity to experience the enrichment that Governor’s School offers!
Alexis Slagle Gilroy (1992), Corporate Healthcare Attorney, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough: Governor’s School was one of the first opportunities where I was pushed to think critically and explore a host of new ideas and possibilities. As an attorney now sitting in an office across the street from the US Capitol working on a variety of leading Telemedicine, Healthcare, M&A and other issues for clients, I can certainly say that Governor’s School started this girl from a small rural town in the mountains of NC on a path of discovery, curiosity and commitment to helping others.
Chris Lowrance (2001), Owner, Chris Lowrance Illustration + Design: I provide a variety of design-related services, mostly relating to web-based business. Though located in NC, most of my clients are in the San Francisco Bay Area. I also have some international clients in the Netherlands. While it’s difficult to put into words just how much of an impact the GS program had on my mental development and social awareness, it’s easy to point to the most practical and direct impact attending the program had. I come from a low-income family that wouldn’t have had a dime to put towards my higher education, despite their best intentions. Luckily, I was able to attend UNCG fully on grants and scholarships. Had I not been awarded merit-based awards, this wouldn’t have been possible. During UNCG’s Merit Awards interviews, the fact I attended Governor’s School was repeatedly discussed and I have little doubt having that experience under my belt helped win that much-needed scholarship.
Lynne Manchester (1992), Kindergarten Teacher: I left Governor’s School East a different person than when I came. I matured so much over that 6-week period. I learned what it meant to become truly close to friends who I am still close to now. I got to make incredibly beautiful music with the best of the best in NC, as well as with the best director, Mark Parsons. I even got the opportunity to travel to Vienna with the group to perform in a local music festival! The group of students who attended GSE in Choral Music from 1988-1992 attended reunions for years, and we are still friends due to this experience! I cannot say enough about Governor’s School. Cutting it would mean robbing so many deserving students (many of whom would not have the opportunity to attend this type of summer program due to income of their families) of an amazing experience! Please keep funding Governor’s School!
Megan Marshall (2008), Student: N. C. Governor’s School helped me achieve everything I have right now. I am a successful college student and student leader because of the explorations I was encouraged to do at Governor’s School. I expanded my mind, developed a desire to learn and accomplish great goals as well as an affinity for deep discussion, and made lifelong connections and friends. I wouldn’t have been able to attend Governor’s School if I’d had to pay for it; after I attended, Governor’s School helped me attain scholarships needed to attend college. I am a strong believer that Governor’s School cultivates higher learning regardless of socioeconomic standing, which is essential to the future of the state of North Carolina and this country.
Michael McFee (1970), Professor of English & Director of the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill: It showed me how to read and talk about literature in a thoughtful, mature, and exciting way. I would not have become an English major and a poet without that experience, and I definitely would not be a tenured faculty member at Carolina, serving the State of N.C. for over two decades, without my summer at Governor’s School.
Leigh Ann Allred Wilkinson (1977), Health Care Attorney: I attended a tiny, rural high school. Governor’s School allowed me to see a life beyond that which I had lived with people who were like-minded and focused on learning and giving back to the world. It literally changed my life. I’ve been involved with the NC State University Park Scholarships for the past several years and every applicant who has attended Governor’s School mentions the positive influence the experience has had on his/her life.
Jann Foushee Garrett (1989), Structural Engineer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group: An amazing experience, eye-opening in that we really had some interesting down to earth discussions in our classes. Teachers & students, we all related to one another and I remember a lot of very diverse opinions & lively talk! It was great exposure to people different from me & the people in my small corner of North Carolina. I attended GS in music (orchestra), and it was my first opportunity to play exciting modern pieces. Instructors were amazing, and we performed very unique pieces from John Cage, Shostakovich, and others. I still remember every note, even 22 years later. I would never have been able to experience such an interesting musical journey in any other way, it was just fantastic. Even though I did not pursue music as a career, the whole package of GS let me grow in all kinds of new directions.