2017-08-16 / News

At Governor’s Academy, Golden left “comfort zone” behind

by Kate Shunney


Stephanie Golden, center right, holds a human DNA chain with members of an intensive class on biology and genetics at the West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy last month. Stephanie Golden, center right, holds a human DNA chain with members of an intensive class on biology and genetics at the West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy last month. Berkeley Springs High School senior Stephanie Golden had been preparing for the West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy since she was a freshman. A fellow runner who went to the summer academic program told her she should look into it. When Golden mentioned the idea to her mother, she discovered her mom had attended the Academy herself as a high school student.

For Golden, the three-week residential program was a chance to get a taste of college life and explore the future. She joined 180 students from around West Virginia who lived at Honors Hall on West Virginia University’s campus in Morgantown and took courses each day in their chosen field.

Golden took an intensive course in biology, chemistry and genetics in the morning. In the afternoon, there was a class that took a deep look at the importance of the first and second amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Students at the Academy couldn’t have their phones until free time in the evenings. Once she got over the initial adjustment of device free life on a college campus, Golden said it was great.

“It was a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and try new things,” she said. “I made a lot of good friends with similar goals as me.”

Golden said she felt many of the students had a shared mindset, which she described as “wanting to learn, to be the best version of yourself.”

She found the most interesting part of the Academy to be her studies in human genetics, and the human genome. Her class got to visit WVU’s core genetics lab. Academy students also took a field trip to Washington, D.C. to visit museums and monuments. Golden said seeing a production of “The Originalist” at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. was one of the highlights of her experience.

Golden, a state cross country champion, still kept up her running workouts during the Academy. Student runners found each other and organized a daily 6 a.m. run. Life on campus had lots of rules, Golden said, but students got a little freedom to explore Morgantown and WVU.

She encourages any rising seniors in Morgan County to apply for the program, which does give a glimpse into college life.

“I’m not as nervous about going to college now,” she said.

Students can apply for the summer academy in the winter. The application includes an essay, a listing of activities and extracurricular involvement, plus academic records.

Every county in the state is invited to send two delegates to the Academy each year. Golden was the only one from Morgan County in 2017.

The Governor’s Honors Academy is funded by the West Virginia Legislature and overseen by the Office of Secretary of Education and the Arts. Students attend at no cost to them or their families.

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