Glimpse Into Arkansas Governor’s School

Pluto Douglas, Assistant Newspaper Editor

No reasonable teenager wants to attend school in the summer. It’s already dreaded in the autumn, winter and spring- so what kind of adolescent would willingly put themselves in such a position? My answer to you is simple: the students of the Arkansas Governor’s School chose to do just this for the entire month of July.
Arkansas Governor’s School is a state-funded program for juniors from every city, town, and district in Arkansas. Students are chosen based on essays, achievements, and teacher recommendations. For one to even apply, a teacher must first recommend them. During the application process, students choose what is known as an “Area I,” which is their primary area of study during the month. The options are choral music, development engineering, drama, English/language arts, instrumental music, mathematics, natural science, social science, and visual arts.

These subjects are not all that are taught. Area II teaches students “how to think,” and Area III focuses on social/personal growth. AGS scholars go through a schedule with these three courses from Monday to Friday with frequent optional lectures, activities, and speeches. They are given free roam of the campus and library. 

I was a student at this school. Although it was difficult to be an hour away from my family and give up a month of my summer, the experience turned out to be more than worth it. In fact, by the last day, I didn’t want to leave. Not only did I meet lifelong friends- I also learned, grew, and was given more opportunities than I could have ever imagined. It is an indescribable experience that I would recommend to all students who are juniors and younger.

“Arkansas Governor’s School was an experience that I will always cherish. I value the time spent both inside and out of the classroom. You will learn so much about literally everything. You’ll meet people who left an irreversible impression on you. The teachers, the RAs… they all want the best for you. Even your fellow students want to see you succeed. The environment is a place that encourages you to reach for your highest potential, challenging you in the best way possible. If you have the chance to apply to AGS, or any program similar, I plead that you take advantage of that opportunity. It is a summer I will never forget, and I hope you’re allowed the same thrilling experience,” Social science student Jordyn Bennett from Conway said about AGS.

All of my classes were full of enriching discussions. It didn’t feel like public school: it was a safe environment in which each individual was given the space to voice their opinions and be themselves. Nobody was pushed to participate, however most people chose to, anyway. There were no grades, no deadlines, and no stress. It wasn’t school: it was a pure opportunity to learn and cultivate knowledge.

“Arkansas Governor’s School was a once in a lifetime opportunity. You have the ability to learn things seldom taught in the classroom with people who come from every background and have every unique perspective conceivable. AGS also fosters an incredible community that is unbelievably accepting. I’ve formed amazing friendships, and gained so much more. Simply put, AGS is an opportunity you would never want to miss,” Paige Zammeron, a natural science student from Rogers, said about the experience.

I find myself agreeing with what she has to say. I was in the language arts area of the program and, as an aspiring author, found myself forging invaluable connections and skills along the way. I was taught both nonfiction and fiction and even published a book based on the story The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. For the two weeks we were in fiction teacher Dr. Sharp’s class, we each wrote a short story based on the COVID pandemic and compiled them into a linear story, inspired by The Decameron. Our concept was simple: the loss of reality after time in isolation. The final project was filled with art, creativity, and the bond we had created in the short time we had together.

The different areas had unique projects: mathematics created a rocket, the drama department wrote and performed a play, etc. However, class time wasn’t the entire focus of AGS. There were socials such as throwback and a silent disco. I would consider myself an introvert, but I found myself attending the events and screaming along to lyrics with the rest of my peers. It brought me out of my shell and taught me that these events I feared were incredible and invigorating.

“Before I went to AGS, I was a very awkward person. I find it difficult socializing,” stated Mark Trejo of Rogers and a social science student, “However, my time in AGS allowed me to become more social. The community of AGS is overall friendly, and I had a lot of fun being a part of it. I 100% recommended being in this program.” Trejo said.

This experience of feeling welcomed was almost universal in both myself and those I talked to after the program. Jay Smith, another social science student from Forrest City, testified something similar to Mark. “Alienation, exclusion, whatever possible word one can use to articulate the feeling of solitude amid a social environment. I worry that I’ll be too loud. I worry that I’m too weird for everyone here. I’m worried my first impression will flop. At AGS, there is no judgment, no inequality, and no exclusion. There are no outcasts, misfits, nor is there any person who is not worthy of anyone’s time. At AGS, there is no opposition nor competition, only community and camaraderie,” Smith said.

Along with the social events and lessons, there were also impact speakers. These were people who came to give lectures that would leave an impact on us. Because of these, my peers and I were able to confer with a diverse group of people: Eric Payne, government whistleblower and previous official; Dr Phil Plait, astronomer who has worked on TV shows; Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas; and more influential people. There were also impact movies. All of these films had an important message to give, even if some were a bit boring For example, Koyaanisqatsi is a movie that has no dialogue or narration.

The experience of Arkansas Governor’s School is unforgettable. You learn, grow, and meet new people- some of whom you will remain friends with for the rest of your life. If you are interested in such a program, I guarantee you that it will not be disappointing. Consider giving up a month of your summer to be immersed in college life with amazing teachers and peers- you could even see me at alumni day! Summer isn’t just to get away from school: it’s to blossom.

“It is the most fun you’ll ever have! It’s a taste of how college is and that’s really important. I had so much fun and met some of my best friends there!” Mabel Wise, Rogers visual arts student said.