Going to summer school might not be your idea of fun, unless you are one of the fortunate ones who is chosen to attend a session of Governor’s School. Each summer, some of the state’s brightest and most gifted students attend a six-week session at Governor’s School West at Salem College in Winston-Salem or Governor’s School East at Meredith College in Raleigh. For years, the classes, teachers and summer friendships have changed lives. We’re looking for alumni to share their stories about their summers at Governor’s School. Send your stories to webmaster@ncgsalumni.org

“GSE was absolutely the best experience of my life. In Choral Music as well as my Area I and II classes I was able to explore myself and the people around me. I discovered new things every day, in awe of how very much i knew… and didn’t know. In what were 6 very short weeks (too short), my life was brought together. I have never in my entire life met so many wonderful, compassionate, caring people. I have kept in touch with so many of them, and I know that they will be life-long friends. That’s the point, though. Governor’s School is a place to learn LIFE, not just try to live it. Govees experience what reality is and isn’t, and the lessons we learn there will be carried with us until our time on this earth ends. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to attend GSE…. it is an experience that will never, ever be wiped from my memory!!!!!”

–Sarah Phelps, GSE ’98

“Governor’s School was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It opened my eyes and gave me a chance to express my opinions with people that wouldn’t just think I was crazy. Maybe I was a little crazy, but that was one fun summer and I’ll never forget it. Everyone has to be crazy in high school anyway, or they’ll never get throught it. Playing in the orchestra at Governor’s School west was also an extremely rewarding experience. I had the opportunity to play modern music for the first time and I also got to compose my own pieces, something I never thought would be so hard. In general, I loved Governor’s School and I am extremely proud to have been a part of something so wonderful”.

— Sara LeHoullier GSW ’97

“Governor’s School was a life changing experience that exposed me to ideas I would have never been able to experience. The open and questioning atmosphere allowed me to constructively question my own beliefs and why I believed in certain things. I was able to become an independent person with the knowledge that anything truly is possible. I made some of my very best friends while I was at Governor’s School. In fact, my current college roommate (and roommate for next year, too) was my roommate at Governor’s School. I simply do not have the words to express how important this program was and still is to me.”

Katey Mote
2007 – Salem College
Hoggard High School – Wilmington, NC
Natural Sciences

“Governors school was by far the most rewarding experience of my life. I never would have thought that in a time period as short as 6 weeks that I would emerge with a new outlook on life, a new perspective on academics, and a set of friends that continue to be my closest to this day. The Governors school experience and the corresponding effects that it has upon its participants are invaluable.”

Taylor Tharrington
GS East, 2007
Warren County High School, Manson, NC

“Governor’s School had a profound impact on my educational development. It was at NCGS that learning became personal for me. The experience there intensified my passion for the arts and deepened my commitment to success in that field. It was an incredibly positive experience for me at a time in my life when I was beginning to define what my goals in life would be . . . Governor’s School got me started on the right path!”

Anna Hewett
GS East, 1998
Pinecrest High School, Southern Pines, NC

“As a member of the most recent class of Governor’s School alumni, I feel that it is very important for me to speak up in this time. Governor’s School was an amazing experience for me. Coming from an extremely close-minded area, I of course tended to be an outcast because I see things differently from other people. My intelligence was the only thing I had. After going to Governor’s School and being taught the importance of open-mindedness along with being allowed to live amongst people just like me, I think it would be horrible to deprive any student of such an experience. Because of that, I think that downsizing the number of students that can attend Governor’s School is a horrible idea. In a time of economic instability, we should be teaching students new ways of thinking so that when it is time for us to depend on them they can stimulate this country with the new ideas they create due to their open-mindedness. For instance, if people still had the mindset that “humans can not fly”, we would not be flying in airplanes today. I think Governor’s School is a wonderful opportunity and am so happy that I had the chance to experience it. My younger sister was recently chosen to represent our county and I would hate for her not to be able to go simply because of budget cuts. This once in a lifetime experience is just too important.”

Elizabeth Freeman
2008 Salem College (GSW)
Southeastern Early College High School (Whiteville, NC)
Choral Music

“Governor’s School was a GREAT experience for me. I met one of my best friends that is still dear to me to this day. I also met other people who I would spend my college years with. I remember being reluctant when I arrived on campus because we could not go home for three weeks, then we were required to go home for a weekend. When I returned from that trip home, I never wanted to leave. Being with other creative people who liked learning and discovering new things was wonderful. Knowing there were other “smart” kids all over the state who loved the arts helped me to return home with a different attitude. My summer on the Salem College Campus is still one of my fondest memories and I would hate to think that other high school juniors and seniors would be denied the opportunity of a lifetime to learn, grow, develop and meet people who will become their friends for life at Governor’s School.”

Marlynn R. Jones, Esq.
GS West, 1979
Hillside High School, Durham, NC

“Governor’s School was an extraordinary experience for me for many reasons: the ideas I absorbed, the teachers that inspired me, the “Question Everything” ethos I loved, the friends I made, and the chance I had to take intellectual risks in a supportive and challenging environment. The School made me a more engaged student and made me think of myself as a leader for the first time in my life. I still look to that summer as the time when I broke out of my introverted high school routine and into a broader conception of what my future might look like. I embraced the free-wheeling, ungraded, and relatively unruly atmosphere that pushed me to engage with the cutting edges of knowledge and art. The campus at Salem College became a cocoon of innovation, inspiration, and friendship. Governor’s School would be a great place to spend a summer even without its hallmark “Question Everything” philosophy. But what makes the School truly special is the force with which it shakes the assumptions of all who enter it.”

Adam D. Chandler
GS West, 2001
Walter M. Williams High School, Burlington, NC

“Governor’s school was a great experience. It was a great forecast and taste of the college life. Meeting new people and experiencing a higher education was a great opportunity in my personal and professional development. The program really highlighted the insight and appreciation for our education.”

Jennifer Lee
GS Winston Salem, 1995
Madison High School, Marshall, NC

“Governor’s School was a very positive experience in my life, life changing, in fact. It taught me to think for myself, which made me a stronger student and a more confident adult. It both celebrated and challenged our strengths and differences and provided a core of friends that exist to this day. I wouldn’t trade the GS experience for anything.”

B Diane Pruitt
GS West, 1972
West Charlotte High School, Charlotte, NC
Choral Music

“My summer at governor’s school opened up a whole new world to me. It was a summer away from the traditional cliques and castes of high school where I could be smart and quirky and challenged to do even more! It gave me the fortitude to look past labels and enjoy people for their talents and creativity and absolute brilliance. I returned to my home town with a new confidence having been exposed to this bigger world – this new world – that I had no real sense of until my summer at NC Governor’s School. I came home feeling challenged and optimistic, intrigued and enlightened. You cannot ask for a better summer than that!”

Anna Parry Jackson
GS East-1990
North Stanly High School- New London, N.C.
Natural Science

“I think GSW was the most defining experience of my adolescence. I went reluctantly, sad to leave my friends lounging by the pool for 6 weeks, but I was immediately glad to be there. It was amazing to be surrounded by other bright and creative students from many diverse backgrounds. The math classes and lessons were interesting and applicable and the discussions and activities in other areas were memorable and fun. It was such an amazing social experience and I think it encouraged many of us to attend school in state because we felt like we would be surrounded by other students with similar talents and a love for learning. Instead of attending school in the Northeast or applying to UVA or Michigan I was sure that I wanted to go to Chapel Hill. Many of my GSW 96 friends also attended Carolina and kept the best and brightest in state. I think that is such a huge point to consider when assessing the value of Governor’s School. My sister also attended UNC after her GSW experience, and she had never considered a state school before. It is an enriching experience and it shows students that they can stay in North Carolina and be surrounded by incredibly bright and high achieving peers.”

Anna Kroncke
GSW 96 Salem College
Forsyth Country Day School Lewisville, NC

“Governor’s school was a life changing time for me. In Governor’s School I realized that there was a much larger world than I had previously experienced. I grew up in a very small town and attended a small, rural high school. If I had not attended Governor’s School, I would not have had the opportunity to attend a modern dance performance, to read short stories about war, and to meet brilliant and talented people. GSW allowed me to love learning again – I was able to attend class, read, and write for the pure enjoyment of acquiring knowledge instead of working to obtain a good grade. GSW also opened my eyes to a variety of political and social views and taught me that my home state believed that imagination and creativity were to be valued and nurtured. ”

Beth Mabe Gianopulos
GSW 91
North Stokes High School, Danbury, NC

“Governor’s School introduced me to contemporary modern art, both in my own musical performances and those of the other students of the arts (visual art, choral music, theater, dance). As classically trained performers, many of us struggled at first with unfamiliar and difficult contemporary works. By the time we left Governor’s School, our minds and horizons had been expanded to include art and music truly on the cutting edge. This education has served me well throughout the rest of my life. It contributed immeasurably to my sense of being a citizen of the world, comfortable in conversation with anyone, anywhere.”

Steve Dunn
GSW 1990
South Mecklenburg HS, Charlotte
Instrumental Music

“Governor’s School still ranks as the best summer of my life. I made some of my best friends there, fell in love and learned more than I could possibly imagine about life, learning, art, culture, imagination and myself. It absolutely shaped the direction of my life and to this day I look back on that summer and what I learned then as a pivotal part of my life story. I am grateful to the state of North Carolina, the teachers, the mentors, the students and everyone who gives their time and energy each summer to keep Governor’s School going. I hope it continues long into the future.”

Andrea Sarubbi Fereshteh
GS West, 1997
Asheville High School, Asheville, NC

“Governor’s School gave me a chance to connect for the first time with people who I would know and continue to encounter for the rest of my life: my college roommate at Duke University, graduate colleagues, professional colleagues, and scores of friends. It also stimulated and encouraged my creativity in ways that did not seem “cool,” or possible in a small-town environment like Thomasville, NC.”

Wil Weldon
Governor’s School East (Laurinburg), 1991
Thomasville High School

“Governor’s School was one of my most rewarding experiences during high school. I was so excited to be with other students who thrived on learning about challenging topics. Without sharing that summer with others who were more like me than my fellow hometown students, I would not have had the courage to apply to several colleges that I did. I would not have had the confidence to know that I was as intelligent as other students I met from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California, etc while in college.

“I am very grateful to still have some of the friends I made in Governor’s School and continue to be inspired by these friends, many of whom have stayed in North Carolina. They believe as I do that our state has much to offer all of its wonderful people-including Governor’s School!”

Jennifer Bradley Davis
GS West, 1986
Kings Mountain HS, Kings Mountain

Governor’s School was an experience that changed my life. I went to a small high school of about 400 students where everyone knew each other. The school atsomphere was very judgemental to anyone who was different than the “in crowd”. Governor’s school was my first extended experience with a group of my peers outside of high school. In retrospect, it was my first chance to find out who I really was without the pressure to conform to someone else’s “standards”. I learned a tremendous amount about myself and grew up a lot that summer. The experience at Governor’s School encouraged my individuality more than any other experience in my life.”

Maggie Stone Moore
GS West, 1996
Mt. Airy High School, Mt. Airy, NC

“Governor’s school was where I learned to reach for my goals because they were not always going to be handed to me. It showed me that sometimes I have to work for something I want because not everything is going to be handed to me. Finally, it showed me that just because someone is unique it doesn’t make them better or worse than anyone else.”

Kathryn McCallister
GS West, 2008
Northside High School, Jacksonville, NC
Natural Science

“Several weeks into my first semester at Duke University I met for dinner with a fellow GS alumni who was also starting her freshman year. I remember very clearly how my friend described her experience in classes to that point, and her excitement for the future: “It’s like Governor’s School that lasts four years!” In our entire high school experiences, it had only been our time at Governor’s School that showed us the promise of how challenging and wonderful it would be for us as a part of Duke’s academic community.”

Aaron Deter-Wolf
GS East, 1993
Orange High School, Hillsborough, NC

“Governor’s School was the defining experience of my youth. Until I attended Governor’s School in the summer of 1972, I felt vaguely uncomfortable liking school, being interested in art, music, and literature, and doing well in school. After getting to know my classmates at Governor’s School, I realized that there was no reason for my discomfort. I could be happy and proud to want to learn and to achieve academically. The 21st century needs knowledge workers – those who love learning and continue learning throughout their lives. To cut funding for Governor’s School is to choke the flow of skilled knowledge workers from the state of North Carolina.”

Michael Harvey
The West (and Only) Campus, 1972
Salisbury High School, Salisbury, NC

“At Governor’s School I was introduced to new and challenging ideas that helped me develop opinions and realize my stance on diverse issues such as the death penalty, the meaning of love, the mathematics of nature, and the philosophy of religion. Governor’s School not only broadened my knowledge, but also redefined my perspective of what knowledge means and refined the way I pursue it. In essence, it influenced my approach to life and my attitude towards learning.”

Sindhu Ravishankar
GS West, 2006
Enloe High School, Raleigh, NC
Instrumental Music

“The really cool thing about Governor’s School was, for me at least, the fact that people got along so amazingly. You have this selection of 400 students from across the state, and we’re all as different as can be. And yet, I look out across the quad and I see a kid with an NRA t-shirt on hanging out with a kid who has a gay pride t-shirt on. And it’s not just that they tolerate each other: they’re genuinely friends. I mean, I left Governor’s School and I felt as close to my friends there (who I’d known for a grand total of six weeks) as I did to most of my friends back home, who I’d grown up with. Never before have I felt so completely, unconditionally accepted for who I was in a group of high-school students.”

Robert Sparks
GS East, 2008
Davie County High School
Instrumental Music

“My time at Governor’s School opened my eyes to new perspectives and ways of thinking, gave me scholastic opportunities I hadn’t seen before (and some I haven’t seen since), and introduced me to friends and intellectual peers I still keep up with today. It’d be fair to say that I wouldn’t be nearly the person I am now without the Governor’s School program–and I mean that in the best possible way.”

Brice Russ
GS East, 2003 (TA/C at GSE in 2008 and 2009)
East Forsyth High School, Kernersville, NC
Natural Science

“Governor’s School brought to my attention the value of a stimulated mind. At my high school, teachers generally teach to a test and not for the pursuit of knowledge. GSE opened my mind and showed me my full potential as a mathematician by letting me explore areas in which I had never even heard of. But Governor’s school not only broaded my horizons on campus, but introduced me to a population full of people with the same thirst for education that I have. These people have continued to stimulate my mind. I thank Governor’s School everyday for that.”

Gaither Frye
GS East, 2008
St. Stephens High School, Hickory

“Governor’s School was meaningful to me because for the first time in my life, I was at a place where it didn’t matter what you looked like or anything else about you. We were all there to spend an amazing summer with amazing professors and assistants. I learned things about music, life, studies, and myself that I never dreamed that I would learn at Governor’s School. I met people that I knew only for that six short weeks that I am closer to now than some people that I have known since kindergarten. I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime and I will cherish the memories that I had of those six wonderful weeks forever. ”

Ethan L. Price
Governor’s School West 2007
Alexander Central High School, Taylorsville, NC
Choral Music

“When I recieved the letter that said I was accepted to GSE for the 1998 session I was ecstatic. Although I was a little skeptical about spending my whole summer in school, by the time I got my roommate information in the mail I knew that I was ready. When I arrived in Laurinburg it didn’t take very long to realize that I was going to have a very special summer. The people were great and they made adjusting to life away from home very easy. My suitemates and I became like sisters. Now as I look back on the six weeks I thought would be way too long, I realize they were not long enough.”
— Jessica Avery , GSE ’98 Choral Music

“I attended GS (at Salem College) in 1971 in Chorus. (And I remember you, Liz Urquhart.) One of the most important experiences of my life. As I’ve told people since, “Going to Governor’s School was like lighting a rocket!” I was so knocked out by the experience that I majored in music theory and composition in college. Ultimately received a Ph.D. in Musicology and now teach at Middle Tennessee State University, near Nashville, all of which allows me to do the kinds of things I love: i.e., I’m around music constantly and get to travel for it as well (spent last summer in Rome; go to Sicily in October). My GS experience helped lay the foundation for a required graduate course on twentieth-century music that I teach every year . In ’94 and ’95, I had the opportunity to direct the GSW Chorus, which was almost as intense an experience as being a student there. What was most amazing was to see the change that came over the students after the mid-summer break. When they went home for the break, they hadn’t quite “gotten it.” But when they came back, the scene just exploded with activities and ideas. They were great! Going back also helped me renew ties with people like Jim Bray and Randy Foy, which I’ve really appreciated, to make new friends, and to argue a lot. Although I wasn’t able to get to the Symposium this past weekend, guys, it was certainly on my mind.”

–Steve Shearon, GS ’71

“I remember it quite clearly. The first trip to K-Mart. “Oh my god, we need hoola hoops!,” Nikki and I screamed at each other. We were so scared we would leave a bad impression on our teacher. So, we mozied over the the ole K-spot… and what do you know?

NO HOOLA HOOPS! It was pretty scary. So we had to improvise… Isn’t that what our class was all– well, if not all, at least partly about? – I got a toilet seat for my ring-shaped item and she got a kiddy pool which she cut the bottom out of. All in all, an educational experience. Props for us. Props for GS.”

-Steve Waechter, GSE ’98

“I went to Governors School with an open mind, ready to experience new things, create beautiful music, and meet interesting people. However, my experience completely exceeded my original expectations. Through the help of incredible instructors I was part of one of the most incredible choirs I have ever known. We delved into the workings and beauty of music and there was never a morning when I was not happy and excited to attend rehearsal. Every peer and instructor there influenced me in a different way. I was able to watch others following their passions. Musicians making music, mathematicians exploring theories, students of literature analyzing poetry. It has been almost two years since I attened GSW and there are still very few days when I wake up in the morning and don’t wish I could return to that incredible summer. GS opened my mind and my heart and has been one of the most central and influential experiences of my life.”

Sophie Amelkin
GS West, 2007
Lake Norman High School, Mooresville, NC
Choral Music

“One of the most important skills is the ability to think critically about complex ideas. At Governor’s School not only was I introduced to many new ideas, both within and without my focus area, but I was also introduced to new methods of examining ideas I already knew about. I am in law school now, and without having had an introduction to the kind of critical thinking that I had learned at Governor’s School, I don’t think I would be able to enjoy or comprehend as much of the things I’ve been exposed to up to today. The second most important thing I gained at GS was simply more self-confidence because it was the first time I was around a group of people who wouldn’t make fun of me if I asked a weird question or if I was observably interested in something we talked about in class (this is often not the case in normal high school). I sincerely hope that as many children from North Carolina as possible are given this opportunity.”

Aaron D. Joachim
GS West, 2000
Cape Fear Academy, Wilmington, NC
Natural Sciences

“Attending Governor’s School set the stage for many future endeavors, both academic and professional, and what I learned there has carried forward for more than 20 years. Although I did not study theatre formally, the strong foundation in performance and public speaking served me well in my undergraduate and graduate studies, and continues to do so in my work as a hospital administrator. In my free time, I am able to feed my passion for the theatre by participating in local little theatre productions. The best part of Governor’s School, however, was being surrounded by other bright students and realizing (finally) that I wasn’t the odd one out for being the smart kid, that there were many more similar to me. Many of my GS classmates became classmates at UNC, and some are still my friends today. I encourage our legislators to keep GS alive and fully funded!.”

Sonja Ford McLendon
GS East, 1987
Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, Wake Forest, NC

“For six weeks, I lived in a musical. After my alarm clock radio gently called me out of my dreams, an iPod soundtrack kept me energized as I went for an early run. At breakfast, everyone in the cafeteria sleepily sang good morning wishes over a cup of caffeine and a bowl of cereal. My classes kept my thoughts dancing, stretching my brain with artistic expansion, philosophical conversation, and impossible decisions of ethics. The rest of the day was an unwritten script – there was always something to do.

“Hidden in the Meredith College campus – around dilapidated oak trees and an eyesore of a fountain – were the players of this real-life musical. My friends and I often sat in the quad on the grass, talking and waiting to join one of the many electives, activities, and lectures. At any given moment – unless it was past the 10:30 curfew – one could walk across the beloved quad and hear the din of guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, djembé drum circles, ultimate frisbee tournaments, singing, tap-dancing, and laughter.

“After I experienced such exhilaration, it was hard to leave on that last day of Governor’s School. I had discovered so much about the world and how my life fit into it. I learned to genuinely appreciate diversity – the small town in which I live seems to ostracize anyone who is eccentric, but differences were embraced at Governor’s School. This six-week “musical” showed me that the key to a harmonious society is accepting these differences.”

Asia Morris
Governor’s School East (Meredith College), 2008
Mt. Pleasant High School

“I’ve been to all sorts of camps for writing, theater, art, and dance, but Governor’s School was the one place where everyone there was smart AND talented. I’ve kept in contact with a good number of “govies.” A good number of GSE students went to UNC-CH, so I continued friendships with most as well as a few that went to other colleges.

“I really thought it was a great idea to have classes with all concentrations mixed in – both creative and academic concentrations. I discovered that we all had things in common and our talents extended past our individual concentrations. I also learned about different cultures and realized that some of the greatest people come from little small towns that I’d never heard of before.

“I remember meeting in the big hall with all GSE students before heading off to classes, walking to Kmart, dances, and final performances where everyone could come and see what you’ve worked hard on for the past 6 weeks. I couldn’t believe how talented everyone was. I wouldn’t brag and say I was the smartest in school, because I wasn’t, but it was so good to be around people on my level. It was cool to be smart, and creative, and athletic — all in one. There were lots of people who were great all-around people that I probably would’ve just passed by in the hall at school.

“GSE was a life-changing experience. At that stage in life, you’re searching for your identity. Do you fit in with the nerds who live in the library, or do you belong with the jocks who cheat to succeed, or the artsy weedheads? These are just some stereotypes, but again, it was refreshing to see that “normal” “cool” people were smart, and athletic, and artsy, and ambitious! We were all just a great group of people. Everyone was accepting of everyone’s differences whether it be handicap, sexual preference, race, social status, or physical stature (skinny/fat).

“I must say, a general life lesson for me was crushing stereotypes. One of the girls in my dance classes was such a Barbie I thought. Well, she’s the sweetest girl from the country who could dance her ass off! She looked so polished and sweet, but little did I know she took tap classes from Savion Glover and could throw down! Another guy kinda looked like the dumb jock wearing broken-in baseball caps all the time and talking about wrestling, but he was the best artist! Little did I know! I just had a bunch of, “Oh, never thought of that,” moments there at GSE. One of the guys I was really cool with was there for math. Math?! What’s a matrix?! How could someone on that level be so down to earth, cool and sporty? So I’d definitely say for me, GSE showed me that I have to really get to know someone before passing judgements.

“Oh, about dance there, it was awesome! It wasn’t like going to dance class after school for 1 1/2 hours. We really learned how to move our bodies and we practiced hard! Before and after dinner, we were practicing for the recital. It was just so concentrated! We had a great bond and stuck together and learned a lot about each other. We had guest choreographers teach us dances that we later performed for the recital, and we took a trip to Durham (my home down) to see an ADF performance.

“I’m so grateful for the experience. I hope they’re able to continue this program. Although I’m sure most students could afford to go there if it was a paid summer camp, I think what made it so diverse and real was that it wasn’t a camp for the priviledged. It was for people who met certain criteria and deserved a chance to find themselves and learn from other peers as well as the faculty. I’m sure it prepared students for the next step in life – college. Not everyone chooses college, but for people who have never stayed on a campus, been away from parents for an extended time, walked everywhere – no cars, eat in the cafeteria, or been held accountable for their actions, I feel Governor’s School was great preparation for the college experience. What can I say, I loved it! ”

Tonya Spruill King
1994 Governor’s School East (Laurinburg)
C.E. Jordan High/Durham, NC

“Attending Governor’s School was a huge asset to me in my education. I had never auditioned for anything prior to the Governor’s School audition, and that process alone helped me gain confidence and the courage to step out more often. The Governor’s School experience strengthened my choral abilities and exposed me to different kinds of music. It gave me the opportunity to meet other people with similar talents and interests, but also allowed me to meet people with very different ideas and perspectives. Governor’s School gave me a little taste of what college would be like, and I loved every minute of it. I believe it was one of the most valuable experiences of my educational career.”

Michelle Patton
GS West 1984
Salisbury High School; Salisbury, NC
Choral Music

“My experience with the Governor’s School program had an enormous impact on my development as a young adult. One of the most important lessons I learned was how to focus myself and work towards a goal (I had applied for the 1983 year, but was not accepted). I felt a kinship with my fellow students at GSE that was much deeper than back at my regular school, even as I was exposed to cultural backgrounds and ways of thinking much different from my own. The instruction I received in my primary area was wonderful, but it was the totality of the experience that was transformative.”

Robert Graham
GS East 1984
Ben L. Smith High School, Greensboro, NC

“Governor’s school was a transformative experience. Until that summer, I had no real idea that there were other students like me, interested in fine arts and academics and ready to embrace the larger world. GS set me on a new path, one I had never envisioned before, and I followed it to UNC, to grad school at Columbia and ultimately Paris. As important as a new life vision, GS introduced me to people who have become life-long friends. And, although I did not continue with studies in my GS discipline, I am an avid and active fan, still employing the analytical skills that were evolved that summer. We continue to contribute financially to many of the North Carolina fine arts and academic programs that gave us so much, even though our residence is on a different continent. Governor’s School is one of the things that has helped make North Carolina a great state and it would be shame to diminish the light that has helped so many of us shine.”

Betsy Blackwell
Governor’s School 1976
North Mecklenburg HS, Huntersville, NC

“As an African-American female from a tiny, rural town in the late 1970s, I had no idea how a summer program like Governor’s School would help build my self-esteem, boost my resume, and introduce me to opportunities which I never imagined were within my reach. Therefore I can whole-heartedly say that I am so thankful for my Governor’s School experience and even after all these years I know that it was the life changing moment for me. Simply put, Governor’s School was the catalyst that woke me up to my possibilities and gave me the encouragement to pursue my higher education dreams. Governor’s School is also the foundation for my social and professional networks. Many of the friendships I made that summer continue today. My acceptance into UNC Chapel Hill can be partially attributed to my attending Governor’s School.

“As much as GS helped change my life in so many positive ways, I know the program continues to provide such positive results for the youth of today. The gifted and talented young people in North Carolina need to have the GS experience. Our state needs to continue to encourage its young people by offering such a remarkable program. ”

Patsy B. Zeigler
1978/Governor’s School-East (St. Andrews)
Maxton High School

“Ever since I first began learning how to play the French horn in sixth grade, I did everything that I could to become the best. I joined all of school band groups, auditioned and performed in district bands and honor bands, and practiced during my lunch breaks. I soon outgrew those who played beside me and yearned for more. Although my band director did not encourage me or inspire confidence in me to audition, and didn’t give me the correct audition music until 2 weeks before the audition, I still did not give up because I knew what an amazing opportunity Governor’s school would be for me. I traveled 100 miles round trip several times to see Dr. Mattingly at WCU who helped me with the audition piece. After making it through the auditions, my love for music was validated. Governor’s school gave me the opportunity to join together with other students with superb ability. Together, we made beautiful music and were able to push ourselves harder than any high school band could. Every single one of us loved our instrument and the melodies we could create. To be able to play with such talent was an opportunity I will never forget. It helped me grow not only as a musician, but as a person. This experience showed me that I could reach for something and meet the challenges my goal presented.”

Hannah Hill
GS East, 2002
Murphy High School, Murphy, NC
Instrumental Music-French horn

“Governor’s School gave me my first away-from-home experience and a peek into what college life would be like, providing a chance to make new friends and to grow up and take on new responsibilities. At Governor’s School, I learned the skills to do my own laundry! I met interesting people with different ideas and was encouraged to open my mind to the world and to gain a broader perspective about life. The excitement about learning was palpable; the discussions energizing. What constitutes art? What constitutes music? Who are we, why are we here? Heady stuff for a rising high school senior, and it increased my curiosity and interest in the world around me.”

Samantha Falke Martin
GS West, 1989
Cardinal Gibbons Memorial High School, Raleigh

“As an attendee, my life was profoundly changed by my experience. I came from Rockingham, NC, at that time a large high school, with very few outlets for the academically inclined student. (We had a greater t han 50% drop out rate in the late 80’s) At Governor’s School I met other students and faculty who were gifted in many areas and who drove me to expand my ideas of what I could achieve. I met students who remain dear friends to this day – all of whom are successful – many of whom have chosen a life of service to the State or to higher education. These students were not “geeks” as my high school friends were sure that they would be. Instead, these Govies were smart, engaged, and talented. They were a diverse group, socially, economically and racially. We learned together and we had lots of fun together. We got prepared for college and came away with a new way to think about ourselves and our futures.

“This program is a model for the rest of the United States and truly is one of the foundations of our higher education system – something that we are all so proud of in our state.

“Please work to preserve this program that expands the lives of some of our most important future leaders.”

Tanya Hinesley Freeman
GS East, 1986
Richmond Senior High School

“My summer as a student at Governor’s School altered my life in ways that I’m still discovering 25 years later. Being surrounded by students as talented or more talented than myself, as smart or smarter, provided me a freedom to explore new ideas and investigate topics not covered in my small rural high school. The support of my classmates and the amazing faculty helped me build confidence in myself as an artist and intellectual that serves me to this day. In 2008, my first full length collection of poems, published by Main Street Rag Press, saw the light of day and store shelves. I serve as a Vice President on the Board of Directors of a not for profit literary arts organization here in Kansas City, and am well into writing the manuscript for my next book.

“As a faculty member, GSE provided me an opportunity to give back to the program that affected me so profoundly, giving me the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with an impressive student population. Many of my students are currently in graduate schools throughout the country and several of them graduated from the country’s top universities and are well on their way to being leaders in their own communities.”

Shawn Pavey
GSE 1984 (student)
GSE 2003 & 2004 (Area II Faculty)
Mt. Pleasant High School, Mt. Pleasant, NC
Instrumental Music

“If any of you have had the pleasure of visiting Taylorsville, you know that it is not a booming metropolis…it’s just a great small town full of friendly, hard-working people. My mother was an elementary school teacher, and my father, a licensed electrician, worked with my grandparents and older siblings at the company they opened together in the early 1970’s. I had wonderful teachers and got above-average grades. As with many counties in NC, sports was THE THING for students to do at the time…if you were good at softball, basketball, football or baseball, you were gonna make it big! I loved sports and played for years, but my “thing” was going to dance class one day each week.

“My parents took me to class at a tiny dance studio each week, happy to pay more than they could afford for something that made me so happy. When Jane Maupin (Alexander County Schools Exceptional Students teacher) first spoke to me about the Governor’s School program, it was the first I’d heard of any summer program combining academics and the performing arts. I’d never been away from home on my own for more than a few days. I’d never danced with anyone outside the four concrete walls of the dance studio. I’d been in school with the same kids (all still close friends) for years…some since kindergarten! I’d never auditioned for anything.

“Governor’s School was the start my CAREER as a performer. I was privileged to study with dancers from all over NC…intelligent, curious, ambitious, competitive dancers, led by an AMAZING instructor, Jacqui Chance. We improvised, we choreographed, we critiqued, we listened and learned, we sweated and we DANCED. My mind was opened to a new world of auditions, professional dance companies, musical theatre…things that just weren’t a very big deal in Taylorsville. Governor’s School made the possibility of a career in dance a reality for me. I went to class with aspiring writers, scientists, engineers, musicians, politicians, philosophers…all strange and great thinkers, all together in an environment dedicated to provoking and inspiring creativity, truth-seeking, confidence, tolerance, and passion for purpose.

“The day I auditioned for the Governor’s School dance program, I knew that I would dance, somewhere, for the rest of my life. Having that single opportunity to venture away from the typical NC scholar-athlete stereotype was the greatest gift I ever received from the NC education system. I won’t take up your time with listing my stage credits…I’ll just say that all of my dreams have come true, beyond my wildest expectations. I’ve been performing professionally since 1994…and at age 35 I’m still performing seven shows each week!

“Please consider continuing (and even expanding!) financial support for the NC Governor’s School Program. For many small-town NC students, it is the ONE opportunity they may have to experience a world they would otherwise never know. This hugely successful program changes lives and changes dreams into reality. ”

Lucinda Land Morin
GS West, 1990
Alexander Central High School, Taylorsville, NC

“No singular educational experience can top Governor’s School. As a young man from eastern North Carolina, my mind was opened to a world beyond my neighborhood. I learned new ways to think and new ways of seeing the world around me, and I was challenged like I never had been before. I also made life-long friendships and now, even more than 20 years later, cherish my Governor’s School experience.

“North Carolina was a national leader in establishing the Governor’s School program in the 1960s. As someone who works in education and prepares high school students for success in the 21st century, I have personally seen the benefits of this groundbreaking program both as a participant and as an educator. North Carolina needs to remain a national leader by fully funding the Governor’s School program, now more than ever.”

Chris Kennedy
Governor’s School West, 1986
Goldsboro High School, Goldsboro NC
Social Science

“I cannot truly begin to put into words what my Governor’s School experience meant to me. Before Governor’s School I was not sure who I was. I never felt comfortable just following the crowd, but I was afraid to be different. However, after Governor’s School I was a changed person. I discovered my true self and for once in my life actually liked who I was. In the Area III class, we filled out this survey at the beginning and the end of the session. In the beginning, I filled out the survey as the person I wished I was, that is how I lived my life, wishing I was someone else. And, at the end I completed the survey again, however, I filled it out as the person I had discovered while at Governor’s School and miraculously it was the person I had always wanted to be, but never thought I had to potential to become! If it weren’t for Governor’s School, I would never have had the courage to apply to Duke University or to set myself on the path I am on now. I was accepted to Duke under early decison and my life’s goal is to put my thumbprint on the world. Without the Governor’s School experience, none of this would have been possible for me! Thank you so much for giving me the life I had always dreamed of!”

Wilma Metcalf
GS East, 2008
Madison High School, Marshall

“North Carolina Governor’s School East (GSE), located at Meredith College in Raleigh, is not the average summer program; it is a life-changing whirlwind of ideas and opinions. For six weeks, I was immersed in an environment in which curiosity was celebrated and knowledge was constantly sought.

“French was my primary study area. For the first time, I learned about French culture outside France, as my language skills grew exponentially. Through activities such as attending a Zydeco/Cajun music club, cooking beignets, and watching French films, I learned about francophone culture in ways I had never imagined.

“Though French was my academic focus, I also studied subjects such as ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, epistemology, and religion in my secondary classes. The diversity offered by the curriculum encouraged me to think for myself and to question accepted standards created by society. My soul soared in this freedom as I contemplated and explored my personal values and beliefs that I was previously unable to recognize.

“I will never forget the feeling of community and friendship that I found at Governor’s School. I know without a doubt that the friends I met there will be lifelong. Somehow, the open atmosphere brought together diverse young minds from all backgrounds, religions, and races and bound us to one another. I have never felt more myself than I did at Governor’s School East.

“Coming home after those six weeks, I realized that I am eager to start the next phase of my life. I can feel the pull of independence and new challenges just around the bend and I know that because of this miraculous experience, I am ready.”

Sydney Stegall
GS East, 2008
St. Stephens High School/ Hickory, NC

“Governor’s School taught me to think outside the box. Coming from a small town in the mountains, it was the first opportunity I had to live somewhere new and have a sense of independence. The wide variety of people who attend Governor’s School made it very easy to find many people who had common interests. It also allowed me to broaden my horizons and opened my eyes to other points of view. But the most important thing, was that it was FUN. The classes, the social activities, the community….it all combined to give me the best summer I could have imagined. I still have friends from GSW and can never listen to the Counting Crows without thinking of that wonderful summer.”

Virginia Tuller
GS West, 1994
Hendersonville High School, Hendersonville, NC
Instrumental Music (trumpet)

“I became the person I am today due in great part to the experience I had at Governor’s School in the summer of 1986. I not only got exposure to incredible music, art and drama but met so many people from all over our great state who became some of my dearest friends. I have stayed in contact with these friends for over 20 years. In the Choral Music department our director Dr Robert Ward (now at Ohio State) was an incredible teacher who brought a love of choral music and challenged us to be better and better each week. Never before (or since) had/have I seen a highschool choral group of such caliber. I would not give back the experiences of that summer for anything. I encourage every student I have met for the last 23 years to strive to attend one of the great Governors’ Schools. It is life changing for young adults. It was for me.

“We must keep Governor’s Schools alive in NC!”

Kim Clapper Harrison
GS West, 1986
Northwest Guilford High School, Greensboro, NC
Choral Music

“Governor’s School was the first time I ever felt surrounded by people like me….people who were interested in things I found important. It was also nice not to be considered the smartest person in the room for a change. It was really the only time during my primary education in NC that I felt like the state placed any value on having smart kids succeed. Given how competitive the world has become, and how other countries blow us out of the water academically, we need to make academic success a priority and something for kids to aspire to. Governor’s School is a key avenue for accomplishing that in NC.”

Hillery Rink
GS West, 1981
Thomasville Senior High School, Thomasville, NC

“I can say that, without exaggeration, attending Governor’s School was the single most rewarding and infliuential experience I’ve had. I was surrounded by young people as bright and eager to learn as I was, and I felt NORMAL in my oddness, as if I belonged. I was allowed to be completely open and honest about myself without any apprehension or reservation, something I couldn’t necessarily do in my hometown. I met some great people that I still know and love today. If anything happened to this program it would be a tremendous loss to the young gifted people of North Carolina.”

Andre Smith
GS West, 1996
Goldsboro High School, Goldsboro
Instrumental Music

Of all the things I have done in my life, Governor’s School was the event that most changed me. Prior to my six weeks at Salem College, I always felt insecure about myself. Being the smart one, the strange one, the one who was different, wasn’t always a ticket to acceptance at my rural high school. Governor’s School put me in a group of people who accepted me just as I was, who were interested in my odd ideas, and who were able to hold up the other end of an intellectual conversation. It was great to learn that I was not the only person who felt this way, as my best friends, from Hamilton, Carthage, Mocksville, Lake Gaston, and Fayetteville all had similar backgrounds in being misunderstood by their home-town peers.

I went to Governor’s School to learn about science. But I learned the most about myself.

Jim Hart
GS West, 1979
North Lenoir High School, LaGrange, NC
Natural Science