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Eleanor Campbell ’20 Reflects on Governor’s School Experience

North Carolina’s Governor’s School program, established in 1963 by then-Gov. Terry Sanford, is a 5 ½-week summer residential program for gifted and talented high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts and unique courses on two college campuses. Students are selected to attend through a competitive process after being nominated by their school. Ravenscroft’s Eleanor Campbell ’20 attended the 2019 session in the area of social sciences. Here is her reflection.

When people ask me what I did this summer, and I tell them I spent 5 ½ extra weeks at school, they tend to think I’m a little crazy. They have a point, I suppose; after all, what teenager in her right mind would willingly trade summer relaxation for more school? 

This one! And I would do it again, and again, and again.

When I first received Ravenscroft’s email about Governor’s School, I hesitated. Five-and-a-half weeks sounded like a very long time, and I wondered whether Governor’s School would be the right place for me. At the urging of my former AP European History teacher, Mrs. Immediata, however, I applied. Even from the essay questions, I knew Governor’s School would be an academic environment like no other. 

It did not disappoint. 

Ravenscroft nominated me in the social sciences, so this discipline became my “Area I” class and the foundation of my Governor’s School experience. No surprise there. The surprise came when my instructors told the class they had lesson plans for exactly three days. I may not have gone to Governor’s School for math, but I can tell you with great certainty that three days is not equivalent to 5 ½ weeks. Fortunately, my instructors had realized this fact, too. The blank schedule was intentional, and on that third, final day of planned lessons, we sat down as a group and addressed the question looming before us: what would we do for the next five weeks? By the end of the two-hour session, we had compiled a list of topics ranging from the psychology of gender to the current Israel-Palestine situation to the difference between parliamentary and presidential systems and countless more in between. In a traditional school environment, this would never be feasible, but Governor’s School is no traditional school. There are no assessments or grades, but students participate fully in discussions, simply because they want to learn.

This environment spreads beyond the classroom. Huge crowds came to every instrumental and choral music, dance and theater performance not because they were required to or because they had nothing else to do, but because they wanted to see what their friends and roommates had accomplished. A sense of community permeates the place 24/7, and everyone benefits.

Although I was sad to leave Governor’s School and all of the new friends I had made at the end of July, I am very excited to be back at Ravenscroft this fall. Already, my English and Government classes have addressed topics we discussed at Governor’s School this summer, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!