Academically-gifted high school students spend summer at Radford

Nehemiah Bester ’18, a Governor’s School counselor, and his group.
Nehemiah Bester ’18, a Governor’s School counselor, and his group.

In the pursuit of knowledge, nearly 400 academically-gifted high school students from across the Commonwealth of Virginia came to Radford University from June 24 to July 21 to participate in Governor’s School.

Radford University has hosted the month-long program that provides academic opportunities beyond those typically offered in a K-12 education since 2011.

Wayne Gallops, professor of music, is the director of the Residential Governor’s School for Humanities and Visual and Performing Arts, and Leigh Anne Kelly, instructor in the School of Communication, is the associate director.

Selections for Governor’s School begins each October through an audition process and/or competitive application.

“Bringing together these wonderful students with nationally and internationally renowned experts in multiple arts and humanities fields creates a very special opportunity and dynamic on the Radford campus,” Gallops said.

Visual and Performing Arts students hone their craft in either dance, theater, studio art, or instrumental or vocal music. Their skills are developed through a wide range of courses that include special guests from around the country, such as Roanoke Symphony conductor Maestro David Stewart Wiley, poet and author Nikki Giovanni and international entrepreneur Bob Harris.

Students studying the humanities had two classes each morning followed by a seminar course with rotating topics each week. All programs were unified by the theme of “Social Capital.”

Nehemiah Bester ’18, a Governor’s School counselor, and his group.
Nehemiah Bester ’18, a Governor’s School counselor, and his group.

Outside of the classroom, students have the opportunity to explore the region, participate in educational activities, time to kick back and relax, and partake in team building exercises. Alumna Liza Moles serves as resident life director, leading 24 group counselors and student activities.

Nehemiah Bester ’18, a Governor’s School counselor, said that the opportunity to work with the students has been “tremendously rewarding.”

“What is most interesting is when I watch them grow during the summer, I mirror that same growth,” Bester said. “I too am growing as a person from having to act as a mentor, counselor and friend to each one of my students. I get up each day with a deep passion to create as healthy, safe, and fun learning environment as possible.”

As a recent alumnus, Bester helps the students navigate the transition to college life though giving advice on time management and successfully balancing a social and academic life.

Maeve Hall, a rising high school senior from Chesterfield, found that the unique courses offered her a chance to visit topics not normally discussed in a K-12 education.  

“I am going to leave here knowing that I’ve grown both intellectually and personally,” Hall said. “I feel vastly more confident in my own abilities as a scholar and in my own voice. Living in an environment of acceptance fosters creativity. I believe that everyone at Governor’s School comes away with new perspectives on the world and problem solving, whatever their medium of change may be. I come away from this experience humbled by all I still have to learn, but empowered with the knowledge that I have gained here.”

Assistant Professor of Communication Michael Meindl, one of the professors in Governor’s School, said that the high school students were “highly engaged.”

“These are fantastic students,” Meindl said. “They’re coming in with a lot of knowledge, so you’re able to have deep conversations from day one. You have students who want to build upon their experiences. They want to understand the material further. I see dedication and commitment in the Governor’s School kids and that’s what makes it exciting.”

Nathan West, an incoming music graduate student, is another counselor for Governor’s School.

“I’ve been working with high school students for a really long time through either band camps or private lessons,” West said. “The music students here are so receptive to what you say. They understand it on a different level than a lot of other students. They improve so quickly that you have to keep throwing stuff at them.”

The entire campus comes together to facilitate the experience for the high schoolers, as their experience touches almost all of campus. Director of Conference Services Deborah Rynberg assists Governor’s School with logistics, including housing, dining and other services during their stay.

To conclude the experience, the students participate in a closing ceremony and academic showcases, which family members, friends and guardians are invited to attend.

Jul 20, 2018
Max Esterhuizen