RU Hosts Top High School Talent for Virginia Governor's School

For the third year, Radford University is hosting nearly 400 of the commonwealth's most talented high school students on campus for the Virginia Summer Residential Governor's Schools in the Humanities and the Visual and Performing Arts.

Student Colleen Casey, 15, of Prince William County is continuing a family tradition—her sister participated in governor's school five years ago.

"It's exceeded my expectations," she said of the experience, her first time on the RU campus. "I originally thought we'd be more broken off into groups, maybe more closed off. Instead I've gotten to meet a lot more people than I ever thought I would have, and that has been awesome."

Held through July 21, the 2012 Governor’s School for the Humanities and the Visual and Performing Arts provides high school students with academic challenges as well as an opportunity to live on campus for a month, a preview of the college experience. The program emphasizes free expression, intellectual curiosity, responsibility, maturity and mutual respect.

Making Casey's experience even more rewarding has been thought-provoking discussions among faculty and students. "The classes are a lot more interactive," she said. "I'm used to being in a regular high school classroom with the teacher lecturing and things like that. I like how involved we all are in the classroom here."

Governor's School student Virginia Gagnon works on a drawing.

Governor's School student Virginia Gagnon works on a drawing in Professor Richard Bay's art class.

Her initial nervousness and apprehension quickly faded once Casey arrived at Radford. "Everyone's just been so nice and really friendly," she said. "You can plop down at any table during lunch or dinner and talk to people about anything."

Since 2010, RU has been selected by the Virginia Department of Education to host the four-week program, which gives junior and senior high school students an opportunity to use their creativity in music, visual and performing arts, and the humanities.

Students are accepted based on their academic records, test scores, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, creativity, original essays and teacher recommendations. Nominations may come from teachers, guidance counselors, peers and even the students themselves.

For the summer program, students are divided between the RU College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Rachel Brown, 17, of Hampton said she is blown away by her first governor's school experience. Fresh off of her participation in Virginia Girls State at Longwood University, she said, "This is a completely different ballgame. It's just a wonderful program. I've been so surprised. It's a very accepting, mature environment."

Sitting with peers in a class on the cinema of horror, taught by RU Assistant Professor Ted McKosky, Brown said the subject has been, well, a scream.

"This really piqued my interest because I want to be a writer, and horror has always been a great outlet," Brown said of the class, which dissects the elements of classic movie horror, analyzing the elements of storytelling, character development and the creepy-crawly components as well.

"We do one dramatic play a year at my high school," she said. "This class has taught me so much, such as about subtle film exposures, learning about the old Hollywood stars, the people who really built up the credibility of the film industry."

Brown said her governor's school experience has been all she had hoped for. "It's one of those magic moments when you're just like, 'Aha, I get it now,' " she said. "Absolutely it has given me so much more in the way of knowing what to ask about when I'm looking into colleges next year. It's given me ideas of what I want when it comes to food services, dorms, academic programs, faculty-to-student ratio, classrooms—my thoughts on everything have now been just completely flipped around."

Students taking part in this year's Governor's School join together to form a peace sign as they sing John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" on the main lawn.

Students taking part in this year's Governor's School join together to form a peace sign as they sing John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance."

Caleb Snyder, 15, of Louisa said he applied to the program through the encouragement of a high school teacher. "I thought, hey, that sounds pretty cool—plus, it also looks pretty good on the college resume,"  he said. "It's been a lot of fun. I've met some great people here and made a lot of friends."

Although he has played alto saxophone since sixth grade, Snyder hopes eventually to be an architect. He applied to the governor's school humanities program because it meshed with his interests in community and political issues.

He said he never envisioned academics being so enjoyable. "I originally thought the classes were going to be intense and all day," he said. "It turns out it's just morning classes for the most part, with a lot of fun things scheduled later on. I'm glad I'm here. It’s a great group to be around."

For more information about the Virginia Summer Residential Governor’s School in the Humanities and the Visual and Performing Arts or to learn more about opportunities for next year's summer program at Radford University, call (540) 831-7828, or email

Jul 19, 2012
Keith Hagarty
(540) 831-7749