Set for Governor's School
For Lee County High School junior Sara Zuluaga, learning is exactly the way she wants to spend her fast-approaching summer break.
Carleigh Flynn, Samantha Godfrey, and J.T. Owens, all juniors at Southern Lee, each say the same.
That's why it's good for all four of the rising seniors that they've been accepted to North Carolina Governor's School. Governor's School is a five-and-a-half week residential education opportunity for gifted rising seniors across North Carolina. The admission process is lengthy, selective and highly competitive.
“I don't really think of it as giving up my summer,” said Zuluaga, 17. “But if I did, this is exactly the sort of thing I'd give summer up for. For me, this is the environment I want to be in. I love to learn, and I love education and being in that environment.”
Zuluaga, who first decided she wanted to go to Governor's School when she was in 6th grade thanks to the experience of a family friend, will study social sciences over the summer at the school's West Campus at Salem College in Winston-Salem.
“I've always been a reader, so I kind of thought I'd be an English person. But when I got into high school and started taking history classes I just fell in love with it,” she said. “Social science is about studying people, and it really teaches you the soft skills that employers look at like critical thinking and communication. I've looked and looked and looked, and nobody comes out of the experience unhappy.”
Flynn, who will study art – also at the West Campus in Winston-Salem – had a slightly more rigorous admission process than her peers. In addition to the essays other students had to submit, Flynn, 16, had to bring three pieces of her art (a painting titled “Edward Scissorhands,” a charcoal drawing titled “Model 1,” and an untitled sculpture) to an audition with nearly 170 other students from across the state.
Only 40 were selected for Governor's School.
“You're in this classroom and the judges come by and ask you questions about your art and about why you applied for governor's school,” she said. “(Being selected was) the best feeling. I'm so thankful, and I'm so excited to get to meet other artists.”
For Flynn, the opportunity is a chance to learn not just more about how to become a better artist, but to be around other artists and to learn more about various mediums and the history behind them.
“I decided to apply for it even though the odds were really bad because it will be really nice to have it on my college applications to kind of set me apart,” said Flynn. “I'm excited to get into a program that's just a higher level of art education. I'm interested to see what they have us do and if they teach us about the academic side of art.”
Owens will attend the school's East Campus at Meredith College, where he will study natural science.
“I take honors biology and honors physics, and I took honors chemistry, and I want to take more science classes,” he said. “My teacher Mrs. Randolph is really good at explaining why science is important, and it made me want to study science more.”
Owens, 17, said when he found out he could apply, he was able to choose between math and science. His choice was an easy one.
“I chose science based on Mrs. Randolph,” he said. “And I couldn't see myself doing five and a half weeks of math.”
Owens said he leans toward physics being his favorite of the sciences
“It feels more applicable to the real world,” he said. “If you push a ball off a table and you know how fast it's going and how high up the table is, you can tell where it's going to land. If you think about satellites, that's physics – you have to be able to counteract gravity but still stay in orbit. That's pretty cool.”
For Godfrey, a natural disaster early in the school year almost precluded her from even trying to get in.
“I had just lost my house in the hurricane and I thought I was just too stressed out to apply,” said Godfrey, 17. “But my teacher talked me into it, and I ended up doing all my essays really fast and I got in.”
Since Godfrey was selected even after writing her essays under the gun, it's not a surprise that she'll be studying English at the Governor's School West Campus.
“I've always been fairly good at English, I've taken AP English, and I've won some writing contests,” she said. “I enjoy writing fiction, but I've done some essays for things like the soil and water competition.”
Godfrey said she's excited to “take an extra step in making my writing better and organizing my writing,” but actually expects her career path to take a different trajectory.
“I'd like to go into mechanical agricultural engineering,” she said. “I've been building cars with my dad since I was a kid. And then I took horticulture (at Southern Lee), and really loved it. So agricultural engineering, it's more of creating the machines that will be used in farming.”