N.C. Governor’s School has been threatened due to the state budget crisis and must raise $100,000 by August 1 or the door’s will be closed. You can donate through NCGS Foundation to help keep this program alive!
A little background on the program (from the GS website): The Governor’s School of North Carolina is a six-week summer residential program for intellectually gifted high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses on each of two campuses. The curriculum focuses on the exploration of the most recent ideas and concepts in each discipline, and does not involve credit, tests, or grades.
The Governor’s School is the oldest statewide summer residential program for academically or intellectually gifted high school students in the nation. The program, which is open to rising seniors only, with exceptions made for rising juniors in selected performing/visual arts areas, is located on two campuses of up to 400 students each: Governor’s School West at Salem College in Winston-Salem (begun in 1963), and Governor’s School East at Meredith College in Raleigh (begun in 1978).
My story about GSE
I attended Governor’s School East (GSE) in 2006 before my senior year of high school for dance, but my journey to GSE started in 2004. Since I was attending for the arts I could audition as a rising junior, so in 2004 I applied to attend in Summer 2005. In addition to the application and aptitude tests, I had to audition at the county and state-level before being accepted into the program. As a sophomore in high school, I had never auditioned for a dance program other than placement auditions at my school for dance class. I was a nervous wreck at the county audition and didn’t make it to the state-level audition. I was disappointed, but that fueled my desire even more to try again next year. As a cocky junior in 2005, I went to the county audition a different person and a different dancer. I was aggressive, determined and strong. I walked in knowing that I would make it to the state audition. At the end of the audition, the instructor said she remembered me from last year and that I was much better this year. That solidified my thought: I will make it.
The state level audition took place at Meredith, where GSE is also held, and again, I walked in confident. Although, on the inside I was more afraid than I would let out. There were hundreds of girls stretching on the gym floor and then I spotted a familiar face. A girl who had attended American Dance Festival Four Week School with me in Summer 2004 was there. That put me more at ease as I tried to mentally prepare for how to stand out among the other girls. I don’t remember most of the audition, except the last time we went across the floor doing a leap series, and I felt like I was flying. I wanted show the judges: I was ready, I was willing and I was able to perform at Governor’s School.
Dancing My Heart Out
I was accepted into the program and ecstatic! I moved in to the dorm Barefoot at Meredith College with my roommate Elyse, and suitemates Maribel and Ruth. I met Ruth when I walked in and she and my mother were discussing toilet paper in the bathroom. Ruth was more outgoing and funny, we got along right away. Elyse, on the other hand, was shy and wasn’t really excited about the program. She was from the beach and was sad to be away for the summer. We eventually brought Elyse out of her shell and I loved my entire suite.
From the dance side, I was pushed, challenged physically and mentally and stretched. It was contemporary movement, which I was used to, but it was taken to a whole new level. We practiced about 6 hours a day – learning new partnering techniques, improv and choreography for performances. We performed with the other arts students in an art gallery area. My group was stationed on a bench outside, where we repeated the same phrase continuously for about 2 hours. It was different from any other performance, since we were not the main attraction and we repeated the choreography over and over, but I learned a lot about performing for a small crowd in the space given, how to rely on the other dancers and how to pace yourself for a performance so long.
Our end of session performance was about a 20 minute long dance and the only thing I remember about it was that right before we went on stage, I learned that my friend’s mother had passed away from cancer. I was crying while I was performing and it was like an out-of-body experience. My memory of it is like me looking down on myself performing. I poured my emotions into the dance and gave it 100% of myself.
Passion, Values and Beliefs
Growing up in a middle-class home with parents and brothers that were well-educated, my beliefs were pretty traditional and never challenged. Governor’s School changed that. I learned how to articulate my values and beliefs, while listening and understanding others. I was uncomfortable talking about my faith in some cases, but it was a growing experience. I met people with radical ideas and passions, things that I had never really thought about before.
One of those guys was Paul. I don’t remember how exactly I found out about it, but we had a meeting about Invisible Children and how we could tell people on-campus about it. We split into groups and tackled ideas about ordering t-shirts, having a screening of the documentary and fundraising ideas. I poured my heart into the efforts. I had never seen the documentary before coming to GSE and have since gotten involved with fundraising efforts while I was at Elon. I was inspired by Paul, he was so passionate about the issue and dedicated to making a difference – that’s what I aspired to do.
Learning and Growing
In addition to Invisible Children, we watched several documentaries and had several guest lectures as a program, including Tim Tyson (author of Blood Done Sign My Name) and Grizzly Man. Each event was informative and eye-opening, making me think about issues like the Vietnam war or environmentalism that I had never really thought about before. Little did I know, but taking part in these discussions and lectures in 2006 would inspire me to go to many lectures while at Elon, because I knew that even if I didn’t understand a specific topic, that I could learn a lot at the event.
I also explored photography. I worked on the summerbook (the yearbook except for the six-week program) and fell in love with photography. I took more photos in those six weeks than I can count. I made my friend Victoria become my personal model and I photographed her around the entire campus of Meredith. I loved trying to be creative in shots and messing with settings on my camera.
Everyday challenged and inspired me. I know I have used those two words a lot in this post, but I don’t know how else to describe it. GSE taught who I was and who I wanted to become. It influenced my decision of where to go to college and what to do while I was there. I loved every minute of learning that took place on Meredith’s campus. Many people asked why I would voluntarily go to school in the summer – but with no pressure of grades or tests – I went for joy of learning and growing.
I don’t think this blog post can do it justice, but the summer at GSE will always be a special place in my heart.