42nd Arkansas Governor’s School Begins at ATU

AGS Opening Ceremony 7-5-2021
Participants in the 42nd Arkansas Governor's School and their family members attended an opening ceremony at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Monday, July 5.

Approximately 370 rising high school seniors from around the Natural State arrived at Arkansas Tech University for the 42nd Arkansas Governor’s School on Monday, July 5.

The four-week program is made possible by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education. AGS is designed to provide participants with opportunities for academic, social and personal growth.

“This is a really good opportunity and it will look good on my resume for college applications,” said Timia Starks, a resident of Jonesboro and student at Valley View High School. “I feel like (AGS) will propel me for my future. I’m excited about meeting all the new people. This will help prepare us for college. I think it’s going to be great.”

Students’ daily class schedule at AGS is based, in part, upon their demonstrated aptitude in one of nine areas of specialization: visual arts, choral music, instrumental music, drama, English/language arts, mathematics, natural science, social science or cybersecurity.

Those nine disciplines constitute what is defined as AGS Area I. Starks is specializing in choral music at AGS 2021. One of her classmates, Jordan Staton of Little Rock, is focusing on cybersecurity.

Each AGS participant was selected through a competitive application process.

“I understand the opportunities (AGS) presents to me as an individual and as an aspiring computer scientist,” said Staton, who is a student at Arkansas Virtual Academy. “I knew that if I put my best into the essays that got me into Arkansas Governor’s School, I would have great experiences in cybersecurity and find myself in other fields as well. When you are in an academic environment with people who have the same aspirations as you, you are going to learn new things. I think I’ll come out of this as a new, inspired student as I look ahead to college.”

AGS Area II is a study of the nature of knowledge, while AGS Area III is focused on the personal and social development of students.

One aspect of Arkansas Governor’s School that differentiates it from students’ high school routine is there are no grades at AGS.

“It’s never been about grades for me,” said Staton. “It’s knowing that I did something well and to the best of my ability. That’s how I look at school.”

Beyond the classroom, AGS 2021 participants will learn from impact speakers, watch impact movies and engage in cultural experiences through collaborations with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. There are also daily recreation programs.

“There’s a lot of nervousness from the students right now, but there’s also a lot of excitement,” said Dr. Robin Lasey, director of AGS at Arkansas Tech. “The diversity of people and the diversity of thought that we have in this state, and the opportunity to bring them together to share ideas, that’s just cool to me. You have to experience (AGS) to really understand how special this program is.”

Arkansas Governor’s School is administered by Krystal Nail, supervisor for Arkansas Department of Education Gifted and Talented Programs, with assistance from an advisory council appointed by the governor.

“Coming back to this after a year of being away from people (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) is special,” said Dr. Jeff Woods, co-director and Area I coordinator for AGS at Arkansas Tech. “What we want is people to be exposed to the world…to new things, to new ideas, maybe ideas that are different from theirs. We don’t necessarily expect them to change any of their views on the world, but we want them to know there are other ideas out there and to discuss those in an open and free environment where they feel comfortable. It’s a balance between challenge and comfort, and I think we strike that balance really well.”

Students applaud during the 42nd Arkansas Governor’s School opening ceremony on Monday, July 5.
Arkansas Tech University President Dr. Robin E. Bowen was among those on hand to welcome students to the 42nd Arkansas Governor’s School on Monday, July 5.
The platform party at the 42nd Arkansas Governor’s School opening ceremony consisted of (from left-to-right) Krystal Nail, supervisor for Arkansas Department of Education Gifted and Talented Programs; Dr. Robin E. Bowen, Arkansas Tech University president; Dr. Robin Lasey, director of AGS at Arkansas Tech; and Dr. Jeff Woods, co-director of AGS at Arkansas Tech.