Published on June 25, 2024 by Dakota Rice  

For more than 35 years, the Alabama Governor’s School (AGS) has provided academic, creative and leadership experiences for rising high school juniors and seniors. Hosted every year by Samford University, this year’s cohort will be on campus June 16 – 28. Students are housed in residence halls and have a daily curriculum.

Former first lady Jeanna Westmoreland has been involved since 2006 when she joined the leadership council and is now serving her second year as the executive director. Westmoreland has had the pleasure of watching the program evolve over the years, stating, “Technology has become more integral in our selection and recruitment process and has improved the quality of our courses. We’re also able to create a magazine every year that acts as a yearbook for that year’s cohort.”

A typical day for AGS students includes a variety of activities, including recreation, seminars and networking opportunities. Every piece of the schedule is designed to foster leadership and teamwork while nurturing the students’ passion areas. The seminars provided cover a large range of topics and fields. For instance, there is a seminar on the effective use of social media, one on the realities of working in modern health care and one involving participation in a mock legal trial.

“A number of leaders are from Samford,” shared Westmoreland. “Those who aren’t have expertise and bring a strong knowledge and passion to the topic at hand. One of our instructors is even a former AGS student. He came in thinking he wanted to be a lawyer, and now he’s teaching our magazine creation course. One way to find your passion is for these students to learn both what areas they do and do not feel led to.”

One former student, Hezekiah Weeks, considers his journey at AGS as marking a pivotal chapter in his life. Part of his business seminar was a tour of Innovation Depot, where his passion for international business took root. He also found a vibrant community at AGS, recognizing the diversity and motivations among his peers. Because of his experience, Hezekiah chose to pursue a future where he could contribute to and serve businesses, shaping a clear trajectory for his academic journey.

The two-week cohort experience culminates with a corporate dinner on campus. There are assigned tables of both students and local corporate executives to eat with students and learn about their experiences. The students are trained to have these leadership-centered conversations and to learn from these local executives on how to best pursue their chosen paths.

Westmoreland shared this experience is integral for students who come from both smaller and larger high schools. She said the ones who come from smaller schools tend to already be leaders in their communities and may be burdened by that pressure. They come to AGS to discover other like-minded individuals and to unlock their true potential outside of who they are in their local communities. Students from larger schools often find the areas of leadership and achievement to be highly competitive. At AGS, students do not have to compete with anyone for class rank, so they experience a freedom to explore who they are in relation to other academic achievers.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.