Governor's school alumni praise program

December 22, 2010

By ELIZA WINSTON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of three stories about the Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science & Technology.

Several alumni of the Piedmont Governor’s School for Mathematics, Science & Technology agree that the program prepares students for life after high school, especially in college.

Gideon Martin graduated from Patrick County High School in 2008, and he also attended the governor’s school. Although he graduated from high school only two years ago, Martin is a junior at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech accepted college credits Martin earned through the governor’s school. He said that and the governor’s school experience helped prepare him for his mechanical engineering major in college.

“It just kind of got me in the mindset of what college was really like,” said Martin, because he was used to hard classes. He added that in some ways, high school was more difficult because he had to manage time between the governor’s school, his high school courses and sports.

Martin said the governor’s school also helped him meet people from other school systems.

Another 2008 graduate, Diana Van Nutt, said she also gained valuable experience and college credits at the governor’s school. She now is majoring in marketing at the College of William and Mary.

Because of the college credits she received at the governor’s school, Van Nutt said she will be able to graduate from college a year early. She said she decided to take governor’s school courses because she wanted to go into business.

“That was very good preparation for me,” she said.

Van Nutt said the math classes she took helped her when she had more advanced math courses in college. She also found she could manage her time better because she was used to juggling a heavy course load with extra-curricular activities at Martinsville High School.

Van Nutt advised governor’s school students to remember to take time to relax. She said the only thing she regrets was working so much that she was a little burned out from high school when she began college.

“You’ll be able to work more and longer if you have recuperation time,” she advised.

Whitney Armstrong is a 2009 graduate of Martinsville High School. She said she transferred 60 college credits from the governor’s school to the University of Virginia, where she is majoring in economics.

“Because of that, I was able to skip out of first-year classes,” she said. “I could jump start and get right into it.”

Armstrong has no plans to graduate early, although she could. She said she can take additional classes because she already has so many credits.

She said “one of the best parts” of the governor’s school program was being able to meet students from other high schools. There was some tension on Fridays when students showed up in competing cheerleading uniforms and competing athletes took classes together, but it was never serious, she said.

Although some former governor’s school students are putting their knowledge to use in college, others have moved on to the working world. Carrington Dillon is a former governor’s school student who works as a structural engineer for AREVA in Lynchburg.

Dillon is a 2004 graduate of Magna Vista High School and a 2008 graduate of Virginia Tech. He said he didn’t know he wanted to major in engineering when he began the governor’s school, but he knew a challenging program would help him in college.

“I decided to take the opportunity to challenge myself and get ready for college because I knew it was going to be challenging,” he said.

In addition to the math and science, Dillon said the research class also helped him a great deal. Research classes are required of all governor’s school students.

“Developing writing skills was something as an engineer that helped me out and set me apart,” he said.

He added that he had to take a technical writing course at Virginia Tech in his sophomore year, and the course was “very similar” to Nina Huff’s research class at the governor’s school.

Megan Davis also said the research class helped her a great deal in college. She is a 2006 graduate of Bassett High School and a 2009 graduate of George Mason University.

“It helped tremendously,” she said of the governor’s school.

Because of her credits earned at the governor’s school, Davis was able to take on additional courses and graduate from college in three years with two degrees, one in administration of justice and one in international politics. She now works as a paralegal for a law firm in Roanoke, and she is looking into going to law school or graduate school in the future.

Davis said the governor’s school research class helps her in her day-to-day work as a paralegal because she must draft briefs and prepare paperwork for the courts. She advised current governor’s school students to work hard in the research class, even if they plan on majoring in a math or science.

“You may not immediately see the benefit right now,” she said, “but it will help you in college, and it will help you in your future.”


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