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Governor's Scholars Program adapts in era of COVID-19

By JT Henderson

Frankfort, KY - The 38th annual Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program (GSP), within the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet (EWDC), is underway at two college campuses this summer but with a mixture of virtual and in-person experiences and other modifications to keep students and staff safe from COVID-19.

"I personally know how amazing and life-changing this program is for participants," said Gov. Andy Beshear. "Not only am I an alum from 1995, I am the first Governor's Scholar to ever serve as Kentucky's governor. I am excited that we have found a way to continue this excellent program while prioritizing the safety and well-being of the 2020 class of scholars and the staff."

In addition, the Governor has spoken via Zoom with every GSP group.

The 1,020 high school seniors selected from across Kentucky for GSP are attending shortened one-week residential programs instead five weeks. Class size has been reduced from about 19 students to about nine scholars, to promote social distancing. Instead of 340 scholars at three colleges and universities for five weeks, this year GSP has 85 to 125 students per week at two sites.

The new arrangement is being implemented in partnership with Centre College in Danville and Bellarmine University in Louisville.

"I am delighted that we were able to keep GSP going strong by creatively adapting to these challenging times. While the summer program looks different this year because of COVID-19, the changes give the scholars a valuable life lesson about how to overcome adversity and partner with other groups to meet a goal. We appreciate the hard work of everyone in GSP and our partners Centre College and Bellarmine University," said Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, who is also the secretary of EWDC.

"As a teacher, I know how transformational GSP is for the scholars as they are exposed to a college environment and meet faculty and other scholars who are passionate about learning. I have seen the experience ignite scholars' interest in a new field of study and set them on the path to a career," she said.

GSP 2020 began June 28 at Centre College and then added a second campus at Bellarmine University the following week. The last day of this year's program is July 31.

"We've had to adapt and be flexible but our commitment remains to ensure that the next generation of Kentucky's leaders engages in the high-quality experience that 37 prior generations have enjoyed, even if it meant shortening the originally planned five weeks," said Aristofanes Cedeno, Ph.D., executive director and academic dean of the GSP.

To participate in the extremely competitive program, a statewide selection committee chooses well-rounded participants based upon nominations submitted by each Kentucky school district. Selection criteria is based upon academic records and test scores, teacher and community recommendations, extracurricular and service activities, and a writing entry. The program is available at no cost to eligible students.

When GSP began in 1983, Kentucky leaders wanted to encourage high-achieving Kentucky seniors to go to a Kentucky college or university and stay in the state to reduce "brain drain" from the state. According to the most recent data, nearly 80% of 2017 scholars chose to pursue higher education in Kentucky in the fall of 2018.

As of 2019, nearly 32,000 students have completed GSP. The program has valid contact information for 25,590 living alumni and of those, about 82% have a permanent address in Kentucky.

"Whether they reside around the corner or around the world, they are doing great things. They are educators, entrepreneurs, artists, politicians; through their service and leadership, they stand as beacons whose impact radiates within and beyond their communities," said Cedeno.

To learn more about the Governor's Scholars Program, visit

This story was posted on 2020-07-16 07:17:04
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