Another successful Governor's School concludes at Radford University

Students at the 2015 Virginia Summer Residential Governor's Schools in the Humanities and Visual and Performing Arts will long remember new friendships and learning opportunities after the programs come to a close on July 25.

Since June 28, Radford University has hosted exceptional junior and senior high school students from around the state as they received an early look at the college experience.

The university has been selected by Virginia Department of Education to host the program since 2010. Students are given the opportunity to use their creativity in music, visual and performing arts and the humanities in a variety of course offerings.

For high achievers in the humanities and arts, Governor's School is a prestigious summer destination. The mission of the program is to encourage students' intellectual curiosity and expression while preparing them for life at a university.

Diego Garcia, a Herndon native and rising senior at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, came to Governor's School as a humanities scholar. He hoped to meet other politically-engaged peers and found just that.

"Governor's School is fantastic," Garcia said. "Everybody here is engaged, they love to participate in everything and they all know so much. The conversations we have here are great."

Garcia enjoyed the discussions and healthy debates in "Political Engagement in the Twenty-First Century," one of several courses he had the opportunity to enroll in. Taught by Radford University Associate Professor of Communication Scott Dunn, the course covered everything from the origins the United States political system to the current landscape.

"I liked how Dr. Dunn incorporated lots of outside subjects," Garcia said. "For example, we talked about Greek philosophers, and the ‘The Republic.' We don't cover much of that at my school."


Janice Guzman, Lauren Bidwell, Ethan Brown, Ben Gessel and Noell Evans bonded as members of a project group in the "Political Engagement in the Twenty-First Century" course.

It's not all about the classwork at Governor's School. Lauren Bidwell, of Lorton, is a rising senior at South County Secondary School and a classmate of Garcia's. For her, the opportunities to explore collegiate life were invaluable.

"I feel really prepared for college after this," Bidwell said. "It's nice taking classes when you're not getting a grade - you're just there to learn – and then be given a lot of time to hang out with new friends. Then there are a lot of fun activities. We can go hiking on the weekends or go to Claytor Lake."

Governor's School students had opportunities to step off campus on group excursions. There were also open mic nights, showcases, fairs and other events to keep them as busy as they chose to be.

A community of learning and expression developed during this year's program. For McKenzie Cipriotti, a rising Liberty High School senior from Bealeton, that community supported her as she learned about her own art in a 2-D art course taught by Professor of Art Education Richard Bay.

"It's the most accepting place I've been," Cipriotti said. "Everyone gives you such great constructive criticism on things you do."

For Cipriotti, that support and criticism encouraged her to try things she might never have before.

"There's a lot more than I can do with my art," Cipriotti said. "Like cropping images! No on ever told me that you can just chop your paintings in half in order to get what you want, but now I know I'm allowed to do things like that."


McKenzie Cipriotti (left) and fellow students had the time and resources to explore their art during the month-long Governor's School programs.

Joe Wells, a classmate of Cipriotti, also found that Governor's School was an environment that encouraged him to further release his inner artist. The Cave Spring High School student, who also studies at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology in Salem, found a new reason to embrace art.

"I didn't know why I did art, or what I wanted to do," Wells said. "I always did art to meet other people's expectations. I should do art to meet my own."

Wells was encouraged to attend Governor's School by classmates who attended previous sessions, and by Bay, who he met at a presentation about the program. According to Bay, Wells and his fellow students share a similar spark that distinguished them from peers at home.

"Those are the kids we try to bring here, the ones who have the something extra," Bay said. "I love the journey with them. It's a lot of energy and I'm trying to give them as much as I can in a short time, about art history or technique…but I'm really here to escort them on this trip."

In the end, the Governor's School mission is about unlocking the creativity and intellect of all students, whether they chose art or humanities as a specialty. If the students are to be believed, it was a mission accomplished.

"You can't judge anybody by their cover here," Wells said. "Being surrounded by so many talented people has made me realize how talented I am, too."

For more information about the Virginia Summer Residential Governor's Schools in the Humanities and 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 22, 2015