“I Wouldn’t Trade This Experience for Anything”

AGS Closing Ceremony 2023
Participants in the 44th Arkansas Governor's School attended a closing ceremony at Arkansas Tech University's Tucker Coliseum on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

Like her fellow participants in the 44th Arkansas Governor’s School, Sadie Coleman spent the last four weeks weighing the value of freedom and responsibility.

Every alarm clock, every session of her English and language arts classes and every afternoon activity provided her with a question.

“There were a few times when I wondered, what if I just don’t do this?” said Coleman, a rising senior at Arkansas High School in Texarkana. “What would they do? But I always ended up doing it because I knew I would be mad at myself for not doing it. This was really nice…to teach myself responsibility for doing work even without a grade at stake. I think it will help me when I go to college and begin my career. Everything was optional, but I went every day and did all my work. It taught me that work can be fun. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

AGS 2023 concluded on Tuesday, Aug. 1, with a closing ceremony at Arkansas Tech University’s Tucker Coliseum. This marked the fifth consecutive year ATU has hosted AGS. Dr. Peter Dykema and Dr. Jacob Grosskopf from the ATU faculty served as co-directors for the 44th AGS.

Approximately 380 rising high school seniors from Arkansas participated in AGS 2023. Their daily class schedule at AGS was 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. 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 of the biggest things was getting prepared for college,” said Coleman. “I’ve never been away from home for this long and lived with someone in such a small space. It was nice to get that experience and get out of my shell. I talked to people before they approached me. The last night we had a sleepover and all the girls talked about everything that happened to them. That was really fun.”

The three aspects of the AGS curriculum were imparted to the students by a faculty that included individuals who teach at Arkansas Tech University, the University of Central Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas State University, Henderson State University, the University of the Ozarks, North Arkansas College, the University of Memphis, Gwynedd Mercy University and these school districts: Russellville, Springdale, Eureka Springs, Conway, Riverview, Sheridan and Arkansas School for Math, Science and the Arts.

“I really enjoyed my teachers,” said Coleman. “In Dr. (Tori) Sharpe’s class, we did ‘The Decameron Project.’ It is based upon a book by (Giovanni) Boccaccio from the 1300s and how people used fiction stories to distract them from what was going on with the Black Plague. We wrote our own fiction stories related to COVID and our whole class put our stories together in a book, and we are going to get that sent to us. It was really fun.”

Sadie Coleman (left) and Mark Kamanga (right)

Mark Kamanga was also among the participants in AGS 2023. He is from Little Rock and will be a senior at Parkview High School during the 2023-24 academic year.

“These four weeks allowed me to make a lot of new friendships and bonds that will help me in the future,” said Kamanga. “It opened my eyes about the importance of education and academics, as well as how much time I have to put into it for my future. AGS was a big eye opener for me. I’ve met kids from smaller towns and learned how much more work they put in just to get the same opportunities I have. It makes me feel fortunate. There’s a stereotype that AGS is just for nerds, but I think anyone can come here, have fun and enjoy it.”

Kamanga specialized in visual arts at AGS. He was able to work with digital art for the first time.

“That showed me a new way of art and will allow me to be more diverse in what I make and things I do in the art field,” said Kamanga.

Overall, Kamanga said AGS has provided him with additional confidence and motivation as he prepares to conclude his high school career and advance to college.

“I think I’ll be a more enlightened person,” said Kamanga. “I know more about the ways in which people think. I’m going to put more effort into my academics and things I do outside of school as well.”

The Arkansas Department of Education provides oversight for Arkansas Governor’s School with assistance from an advisory council appointed by the governor.

The 45th Arkansas Governor’s School will take place at ATU in summer 2024.

Learn more about Arkansas Governor’s School at www.atu.edu/ags.

Arkansas Governor's School 2023 Closing Ceremony