Governor's School Applications Due by Dec. 1

Local Governor's School Grads Encourage Others to Apply
Posted on 11/07/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Local Governor's School Grads Encourage Others to ApplyUPDATE: The Ag Governor's School at UTM has a new deadline of Dec. 13. See for details. 

Rarely do four hours of study in the morning, four in the afternoon, then writing essays or preparing slide presentations seem like an ideal way to spend a summer day. But for the chosen few who applied for and made it into one of 11 Governor’s Schools in Tennessee, the month-long investment of time is deemed “well worth it.”

That’s the assessment of four Westview seniors who attended schools at Tennessee Tech, University of Tennessee at Martin, and UT Knoxville this year and who gathered to share their insights this week with counselor Erica Myer. She hopes more students will follow their example and meet the December 1 deadline for applications.

Kizer Riley and Sarah Foltz took Emerging Technologies at Tech. Hanna Harris explored humanities at UTM. And Destin McKeel dove into science and engineering at UT Knoxville.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education website, “The programs are academically demanding and require students who are high achievers. Eligible students typically rank in the top of their high school class in academic performance/capability or are highly talented in the arts.” Applicants must also be 11th or 12th graders who are nominated by high school faculty and then complete the application, provide transcripts, write personal statements and collect recommendations.

“The program is very competitive,” noted Myers. “For us to have four get accepted was exceptional.”

A motivating factor for many who attend is the opportunity to be with fellow students who are equally as excited about the subject matter. McKeel acknowledged, “It’s hard to find people as interested as you are in the subjects you are passionate about.”

Making friends was on everyone’s list of benefits.

Riley pointed out, “You met 29 other people like you.” That fact was true for he and Foltz whose technology emphasis netted 30 participants. Harris had a larger group of 56 with whom to collaborate, and McKeel had the largest cohort of 120.

Harris shared an understanding she embraced when faced with the opportunity to start over in a new academic setting, “I realized I have the authority to be friends with whoever I want to make friends with.”

McKeel observed that a prior lifetime of friendship wasn’t required in order to connect. “They still cared about me. People didn’t have to know your history to care about you as a person.”

Among the other big takeaways were the chance to live independently – having to do their own
laundry and make it to meals (which also got high marks) on time – and the instruction.

All agreed the instructors were “awesome” and the small class size meant getting to know the teachers better.

The website notes that Governor’s Schools instructors include writers, language experts, historians, philosophers, artists, actors, conductors, expert musicians, scientists, distinguished professors, and career-level teachers — “the best in their fields.”

The learning wasn’t limited to inside a classroom. Foltz and Riley enjoyed field trips to Oak Ridge, Arnold Air Force Base and Vanderbilt while McKeel went white water rafting and to the Chattanooga Aquarium.

While the schedule was full, Riley, an athlete, still was afforded time to run and lift weights. And others knew band members who brought their instruments and saw flag corps continuing to practice.

As for takeaways, the experience helped to cement career directions.

Riley discovered that what he thought he wanted to do with his life was not exactly on the mark. As a result of Governor’s School, he has switched from electrical engineering to structural. Foltz plans on being an aerospace engineer. Harris is still undecided but is considering marketing. And McKeel felt absolute confirmation of her choice of going into nanotechnology engineering.

A month away and on your own can be an enticement or a safety concern. The students agree that they always felt safe and mentioned several conditions to ensure their safety. Riley pointed to the requirement to go out in groups of three. Foltz noted that they had to report to college-aged counselors assigned to them. And McKeel, who was on the largest campus and in the most urban setting, said there were clearly defined boundaries of where students could go in the city and on campus.

Without hesitation, McKeel confessed that Governor’s School was the “best decision I ever made.”

Meyers is equally impressed, “I feel like it plays to the students’ strengths and makes a strong student even stronger.”

The only other student in the county who attended Governor’s School last year was Dresden’s Erin Mallory who was part of the Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences at UTM.

“My biggest take away from my month at Governor School was definitely that agriculture is one of the most amazing industries in our world and it makes all other industries possible,” she wrote in a requested assessment of her experience. “I was able to grow as an individual while gaining outstanding experiences along the way. Governor School is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m very thankful I was accepted.”

All students attending Governor’s Schools will receive a scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, dorms, and meals; however, some Governor’s Schools have additional student activity fees to defray costs of activities or other non-academic expenses, which are not covered by the scholarship. Need-based financial support may be available in those instances. For more information, visit

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