SILER CITY — For the first time in at least 41 years, three Jordan-Matthews juniors have been selected from among thousands to attend N.C. Governor’s School this summer.
Calvin Conroy, Maggie Thornton and Brady Andrew will attend Governor’s School West at Winston-Salem State University from June 19 to July 16. Schools from across the state nominated over 1,700 high school students for the program, but only 820 — including Conroy, Thornton and Andrew — made the final cut.
“We’re really proud of these great young people, and I’m delighted that they’re going to have the chance to represent Jordan-Matthews,” JMArts’ president, Rose Pate, told the News + Record. She’s been at the school for 41 years. “Through the years, in many years, we’ve had at least one student chosen from our school, and in some years, we’ve had two, but I believe this is the first time we’ve had three.”
Founded in 1963, N.C. Governor’s School is the nation’s oldest statewide residential summer program for gifted high school students. Held at two North Carolina college campuses over a course of weeks, the program empowers select rising seniors to explore their academic and artistic interests and learn for the sake of learning, without worrying about grades or test scores.
Governor’s School offers five academic disciplines — English, world languages, mathematics, natural science and social science — as well as five performing and visual arts disciplines, including art, choral music, instrumental music, dance and theater. Conroy, Thornton and Andrew will be going for social science, English and Spanish respectively.
Schools first nominated students in December, based on a student applicant pool, and those chosen received the news in late March.
According to the N.C. Governor’s School Nomination packet, school systems, charter schools, federal schools, special schools or non-public schools may only nominate a limited number of students to attend based on their total 10th- and 11th-grade populations. Per the packet’s nomination chart, Chatham County Schools — with a population of just over 1,400 10th and 11th graders — could nominate up to eight students for academic disciplines, two for world languages and 16 for performing and visual arts.
“And you know, the bigger the school, usually the more students that have this opportunity,” Pate said. “We’re kind of a small-to-medium school, so it is really unusual to have three kids from a school our size.”
All three juniors are dual-language students, play in the school’s marching band and participated in the school’s spring musical, “Oklahoma!” They’d originally heard about N.C. Governor’s from family and friends, and decided to give it a shot.
“I hadn’t heard about it at all until my sister went,” said Andrew, who’s also involved in J-M’s student government. “She’s three years older than me, and … she said that it just really changed her life. You know, she met people that she’s still best friends with. She met her college roommate there, and she said this change in kind of how she viewed herself and how she viewed society was greatly impacted by it. So that’s what really made me want to go.”
Andrew then spread the word to Thornton, prompting her to apply as well, while Conroy’s mother, an alumna of the program, encouraged him to apply.
“The main thing is, I want to meet new people,” said Thornton, who also plays basketball, soccer and tennis for Jordan-Matthews. “I’m kind of shy, so it’s going to be kind of scary, but like, I want to challenge myself, and have, like, a life-changing experience.”
While she applied for the English track based on her passion of writing and reading, Conroy put himself down for social science to pursue his interest in geography and other social studies.
“I’m, like, kind of a geography expert and stuff, you could say,” Conroy said with a laugh. “I really like social studies, and all that kind of stuff. I think it’s interesting. I want to learn more about the discipline and all, so I figured I ought to apply there.”
Similarly, Andrew said he chose Spanish to improve his language skills and learn more about Spanish-speaking cultures.
“I just thought, you know, what a perfect opportunity,” he said. “I could use my Spanish-speaking skills … and not only grow with my speaking, comprehending and writing abilities, but also just to kind of be more immersed in the culture and be able to make connections with other Spanish speakers, which we don’t really have one have access to besides my close friends here at J-M. So, I think that would be super fun. I just saw it as a really good opportunity, especially for college. Going out in the real world and getting a job and being bilingual I think is just really a good skill.”
Besides attending classes in their primary disciplines, each will also attend additional classes designed to help them develop their critical thinking, self-reflection and inquiry skills with students from various disciplines. But while they’re excited to attend the classes themselves, all three said they’re most looking forward to meeting new people, forging lifelong friendships and breaking outside of their comfort zones.
“I haven’t been away from my parents for a month straight, which might be cool,” Thornton said, laughing. “I mean, I think it’s gonna be kind of nice.”
“(I’m looking forward to) meeting new people, hanging out, being in — it’s kind of in a big city and all, so getting out of this little country town,” Conroy added. “... I’m really grateful for the opportunity to go to Governor’s School.”
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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