It is a badge of honor among high school students to be selected to take part in Kentucky's Governor's Scholars Program, Governor's School for the Arts or Governor's School for Entrepreneurs. Last month, 38 students from three area high schools took part in these selective programs.
The three programs help bolster students' academic and career goals through residential programs on several college campus sites.
"The general mission (of the three programs) is to make sure the young kids are able to attend - free of charge - a program that will help them grow in leadership, in the entrepreneurial world or the arts world," said Governor's Scholars Program Executive Director Aris Cedeno.
The Governor's Scholars Program (GSP) was created in 1983 to enhance the next generation of civic and economic leaders. The program is open to rising high school seniors, and selection into the program is based on a written application, recommendations, service, honors and extracurricular activities as well as academic performance.
This year, 1,024 students out of the 1,866 applicants from across Kentucky took part in the five-week GSP at its three sites, Bellarmine University, Centre College and Morehead State University. Local students who took part in GSP were:
• McCracken County High School: Katie Caruthers, Natalie Eastes, Noah Ellis, Lauren Ervin, Chesney Flynn, Isaiah Frederich, Hope Hodges, Abigail Kuntz, Lynae Lawrence, Ian Leatherman, Manda Lin, Ella McBee, Jake Mitchell, Garrett Rudolph, Max Thompson and Olivia Wagner.
• Paducah Tilghman High School: Quinn Atnip, Ryan Chua, Kate Criner and Samuel Lambert.
• St. Mary High School: Emma Kerr and Maddie Kerr.
• Homeschoolers: Kathryn Johnston of the Johnston School for Girls and Noah Watson of Alma Mater Academy.
Emma Kerr participated in historical analysis at the Centre site. She said her group talked about the history of magic.
"I was a little skeptical about it at first, but it was actually really cool," she said. "We focused on different traditions and rituals in different cultures, like holidays and things like that. It was a lot more fun than I expected it to be.
"Getting to meet so many people from around the state - they put a strong emphasis on forming a community, and that's what really stuck out for me, just being able to meet so many people and have so many different interactions."
Maddie Kerr took part in the philosophy focus area at the Bellarmine site. She described it as being very conversational, doing overviews of philosophers throughout history.
"The best way I can describe GSP is that it's sort of this utopia," she said. "We're all there learning what we want to learn for fun. There are no grades or competition, and the people there are the nicest, most welcoming people ever.
"I like the way it was normalized to go from joking around to talking about really serious topics that you wouldn't normally talk about or pop into a casual conversation."
The Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) was created in 1987 to provide a professional focus on the arts, preparing Kentucky students for careers in those fields. It is open to rising high school juniors or seniors, which is based on a written application and portfolios or auditions, often sent by video.
GSA accepted about 275 students into its three-week program at College of Fine Arts at the University of Kentucky. Local students who took part in GSA were:
• MCHS: Elijah Garrett (vocal music and musical theater), Hope Hodges (drama), Bailey Joyce (visual art), Shelby Stephens (vocal music), Jonathan Strachan (musical theater and vocal music), Virginia Walsh (visual art) and Hailey Watson (musical theater).
• PTHS: Katie Peck (vocal performance), Jenna Price (visual arts), Mason Romanak (instrumental) and Mark Taylor (musical theater).
• SMHS: William Seay (visual art).
"It was awesome," Seay said. "We had three different courses: a clay and ceramics course, drawing and painting and a print-making course. My personal favorite was the clay and ceramics; I had worked in that before, and the other two, I kind of dabbled in. It was really fun to have three weeks to get experience something you've never done before.
"You can say something, and you know that if you said it around a certain group of people, they wouldn't understand. But everyone there, they think like you because they also have the same mindset; they get it."
The Governor's School for Entrepreneurs (GSE) was created in 2013 to prepare students for careers in entrepreneurial fields, generally business-oriented projects and ideas.
This program is open to rising high school sophomores, juniors or seniors, which is based on a project submission. Students can apply for GSE in groups as well as individually.
The GSE program took in about 70 students in its three-week program at Northern Kentucky University. Local students who took part in GSE were:
• MCHS: Ethan Johnson and Kayla Murphy.
All 501c3 nonprofit organizations, GSP and GSE get funding through the Kentucky Cabinet for Education and Workforce Development, while GSA gets funding through the Kentucky Cabinet for Tourism, Arts and Heritage.
Students wanting to take part in next summer's statewide programs should contact their school counselor.