Eighty of the state’s top rising high school seniors arrived at Samford University Sunday, June 19, for Alabama Governor’s School, the annual two-week honors program for academically gifted students.
During AGS, students pursue major and minor areas of coursework, which include the arts, law, health, research science, history and a dozen other subjects.
On Sunday, participants and their families filled Brock Recital Hall for the opening ceremony that featured keynote speaker Dr. Sharon Bell, assistant superintendent, Birmingham City Schools.
Bell stressed the importance of education, travel and expanding one’s mind, citing a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes that states: “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension.” The quote was the required essay topic for students applying to attend AGS.
Bell noted how skill sets are used in different ways, whether by American Idol contestants who grow and transform themselves during the run of the show, or scientists who conduct life-changing research.
“When you do common things in uncommon ways, you will command the attention of the world,” Bell told the AGS participants, who hail from 23 counties.
Travel has long-ranging benefits, she said, as it allows persons to expand their horizons and broaden their perspectives about culture and customs. “We must educate students to be able to complete in a global economy,” said the veteran educator who is assistant superintendent for student support services.
“What matters is not where you live or what you do, but what you know. Knowledge is the most important thing you can have,” said Bell. “To out-compete the world tomorrow, we must out-educate the world today.”
This year’s roster of AGS courses includes a new one, “The Big Questions in Science and Religion,” which considers ways scientists reconcile their faith with scientific findings and current issues in faith and science.
Seminars include a perennial offering that studies Euripides’ Greek tragedy, “Medea,” in which the title character kills her two young sons. The seminar not only examines the 2,000 year-old play and ethical issues it raises, but illustrates the civilization and heritage of ancient Greece as well as central issues of life in the 21st century.
An Insights dinner on Tuesday, June 28, will feature a talk by banker Donta L. Wilson, North Alabama regional president, BB&T financial institution. He will speak on business and community leadership.
Students will also attend programs on cyber safety and how to apply for college scholarships, attend a Barons baseball game and a piano concert, and visit American Village in Montevallo, Ala.
On Saturday, June 25, they will assist with a service project in Shelby County's historic Bailey Cemetery, where many of the 1,100 graves date to the Civil War era. The students will help clean gravesites and tombstones of Native Americans, slaves and early pioneers, and meet local leaders and historians who will discuss the cemetery’s history. The site is being prepared for possible inclusion in a national historic registry.
The 2011 AGS session will end with a closing ceremony in Brock Recital hall at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 1.
AGS participants are nominated by their schools on the basis of academic ability, leadership qualities, creativity and community service. Selection is also based on teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, and written essay.
AGS was founded at Samford in 1987. Similar programs are held in other states. Samford biology professor Dr. George Keller is AGS director.
The opening ceremony also included welcoming remarks by Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, AGS founding director Dr. Carolyn Satterfield, recent AGS alumni Marie Tucker and Zach Sullivan, Samford vice president for university advancement Randall Pittman, and Dr. Keller. Former AGS participant and 2008 Miss Alabama Amanda Tapley presented special piano music.