AGS Helps Students Connect With Their True Passions

Senator Joyce Elliott and AGS Students July 2022
Photographed (from left-to-right): Coneah Brown of Little Rock, Aiden Maurice of Bentonville, Isaac Thomas of Hot Springs, Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, Jordyn Barnett of Vilonia, Janet Fu of Fayetteville and Alexandra Pierce of Hot Springs participated in a lunch conversation during Arkansas Governor's School legislator day on Friday, July 29. Brown, Maurice, Thomas, Barnett, Fu and Pierce were among approximately 370 Arkansans who were students at AGS 2022.

Janet Fu has wanted to be an astronaut for as long as she can remember.

“There were so many people along the way,” said Fu, “who would tell me something like ‘you know, there are only like 40 people in the world who are astronauts…you should probably come up with a back-up plan.’ For a while, I didn’t tell anyone about wanting to be an astronaut. I would say I was thinking about going into something like finance, economics or engineering rather than telling people I wanted to be an astronaut.”

On July 5, Fu arrived at the 43rd Arkansas Governor’s School (AGS), hosted by Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. Her dream was reignited.

“Here, for the first time ever, I’ve not been afraid to tell people that’s what I want to do,” said Fu. “And there’s nobody here who has told me I can’t do that.”

AGS 2022 ended on Monday, Aug. 1, concluding four weeks of learning and development for approximately 370 rising high school seniors from every region of Arkansas.

“It’s been the most fast-paced, incredible month of classes,” said Fu, who is from Fayetteville. “I’ve learned so much about different areas and topics I’ve never been exposed to, and I’ve loved the speakers that aren’t necessarily tied to your area curriculum. It’s wonderful being exposed to all these ideas and people. There are people from all walks of life and all across the state…different socioeconomic backgrounds and people from rural and urban areas. I’ve loved having discussions with these people, hearing their perspectives and having fun with them at events and socials.”

AGS is made possible by a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education. Students’ daily class schedules at AGS are 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 development engineering. Those nine disciplines constitute what is defined as AGS Area I.

Fu participated in the mathematics curriculum. Her AGS classmate, Isaac Thomas of Hot Springs, focused on social science.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Thomas when asked to describe AGS. “There are open discussions on topics ranging from race relations to economics to foreign policy to how our state works and compares to other states. The biggest value of (AGS) is the connections you make and the people you meet here. I believe the people who attended this AGS will be future leaders and future pioneers in their fields. The best way to describe it is community. That’s really what it’s all about.”

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.

Fu said her favorite memories of AGS will include a spontaneous dance party at Baswell Techionery on the first night and learning how to play cricket. Thomas enjoyed the Monte Carlo night.

“When I came here, I was really nervous,” said Thomas, who is interested in a career in public service. “I have my friend group back home, but I was really concerned about the push to meet new people. I am now comfortable with the idea of sharing a dorm room with someone all the way up to interacting with teachers in a class in a more personal way. Since there are no grades, (AGS) is all about your personal experience and cultivating that. The biggest thing that has changed about me is I really don’t want to leave. This program is for everybody. What matters here is your openness and willingness to connect with the world and those around you.”

Arkansas Governor’s School will return to ATU in 2023 and 2024.

Learn more about Arkansas Governor’s School at