The Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program



When Heather posted the 20 Things she loves about Kentucky, Number 16 was the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program. Even though I've been friends with Heather since I was a law student, I didn't realize that she was a fellow GSP alumnus (we attended the program a year apart, and on different campuses). I'm not surprised that she attended, but I am surprised that I didn't know it before now. Being a Governor's Scholar is truly something special, and we all carry that summer with us for a long time.

The Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program was instituted in 1983 as a residential summer program for rising high school seniors who spent five weeks on a Kentucky college campus studying a chosen focus area of study and a contrasting, assigned subject, plus a small seminar/discussion group. Kentucky was losing its most promising students to out of state colleges, graduate schools and careers, so GSP was created to harness young Kentucky talent and show them what they could do at home. What started with 230 students at one college campus has blossomed into a program boasting over 1000 students at three campuses. Scholars are nominated by their high schools and the application process is not unlike one for college - standardized test scores, GPA, volunteer work, teacher recommendations, and an essay.

I can't speak for the scholars who came to GSP from a big city like Louisville, who may have attended a powerhouse high school like Manual, or who may have hailed from a family with generations of doctors or lawyers. But for me, coming from a tiny town without a lot of role models for academic achievement, that summer was magical. Everyone there was the smartest kid in their class back home, so it was completely acceptable to embrace your inner nerd (I would even say you were encouraged to do so). The Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program gave us a glimpse of what it might be like to be a college freshman. For most of us, me included, GSP was the first time I'd spent an extended period of time away from my family, and the experience fostered a great deal of independence and confidence, both of which are critical for academic and professional success. I suppose I could have picked those attributes up along the way, after starting college, but to get such a concentrated dose of it at the age of 17 was invaluable. The summer wasn't all serious - I also learned important social skills, like how to blow smoke rings and how to bridge shuffle a deck of cards. My debate skills sharpened dramatically that summer too. GSP alummi disproportionately attend law school, so make of that what you will.

So, Kentuckians, did you attend the Governor's Scholars Program? What impact did it have on your life?