Three Northwood students selected to attend N.C. Governor’s School this summer

Juniors Ana Barton, Sophia Roberts and Samantha Thurber selected for prestigious experience

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PITTSBORO — Three students from Northwood High School have been selected to attend the prestigious N.C. Governor’s School this summer at Meredith College and Winston-Salem State University.

Ana Barton will be attending for natural sciences; Sophia Roberts and Samantha Thurber will both attend for visual arts.

Barton will attend Governor’s School East at Meredith, while Roberts and Thurber will attend Governor’s School West at Winston-Salem State.

Governor’s School takes place from June 16 to July 16. Schools from across the state nominated more than 1,700 high school students for the program, but only 820 were selected. Students had to submit three written essays and receive teacher recommendations in December. Roberts and Thurber also had to submit a video of their art portfolios in January.

Those who were chosen received the news at the end of March. The three 17-year-old Northwood juniors were called into the office to receive the news.

“It was this scary moment where they put us in different rooms,” Roberts said. “Then we all found out and gave each other big hugs.”

“The school district is really proud,” said Nancy Wykle, public information officer for Chatham County Schools. “It’s amazing and exciting to see what our students are doing and how they do it.”

Founded in 1963, N.C. Governor’s School is the nation’s oldest statewide residential summer program for gifted high school students. Held at two North Carolina college campuses over a course of weeks, the program empowers select rising seniors to explore their academic and artistic interests and learn for the sake of learning, without worrying about grades or test scores — something the students from Northwood are particularly pleased about.

“I’m excited because if I want to pursue art this is my chance to test it out,” Roberts said. “I just want to explore new art beyond what I typically have in school every semester.”

“You don’t have to think about how anybody else is going to perceive your work except for you,” Barton said. “There’s no judgment, and I can freely explore the topic as much or as little as I want to.”

Roberts said Governor’s School presents a rare chance to test out her interests in a judgment-free environment. For others, like Barton, it’s a way to dig deep on her passion for neuroscience and not be distracted by other disciplines.

“I’ve been wanting to go to Governor’s School since freshman year,” Barton said. “I’m so excited to surround myself with people who love science as much as I do.”

Her passion for science extends beyond the classroom. Barton started her own science blog to encourage more women to engage with the scientific process. She said getting accepted into Governor’s School for science is a culmination of her academic and extracurricular efforts.

Governor’s School offers five academic disciplines — English, world languages, mathematics, natural science and social science — as well as five performing and visual arts disciplines, including art, choral music, instrumental music, dance and theater.

According to the N.C. Governor’s School Nomination packet, school systems, charter schools, federal schools, special schools or non-public schools may only nominate a limited number of students to attend based on their total 10th- and 11th-grade populations. Per the packet’s nomination chart, Chatham County Schools — with a population of more than 1,400 10th and 11th graders — could nominate up to eight students for academic disciplines, two for world languages and 16 for performing and visual arts.

Because the program is grade-free and in the middle of summer, it offers students a unique taste of the college experience while providing opportunities to meet like-minded people in their designated discipline.

“I’m excited to socialize,” Thurber said. “Through art, I can find ways to grow with people and personally.”

Thurber said everyone there will be on a level playing field both academically and socially. None of the participants in Governor’s School have previously attended, so she believes it will be a good way to get away from some of the cliques that often plague high school life.

While most of the students’ time is spent in their chosen discipline, there are also options for afternoon and evening hours to complement the work done in classes. This includes guest speakers, elective courses and social activities.

Barton, Roberts and Thurber each said they’re looking forward to their unique summer experiences, but there are some things they will be missing out on. As juniors in high school, this is their last summer with friends before they go off to college. Likewise, the timeframe of Governor’s School prevents them from taking on a summer job.

“Missing out on those things is hard, but I think it’ll be worth it,” Thurber said. “We’ll be having these cool new experiences with people who will be similar to me.”

Roberts added this period of exploration can teach them more about what they want to do in college and beyond, much more than a summer with friends could.

“Once I got in, I started talking to people who had been before me,” Roberts said. “My friend’s mom, who went in the 90s, said it was literally the best summer of her life.”

The three Northwood students — who were honored at Monday’s Chatham County Board of Education meeting — are hoping their time at Governor’s School lives up to those expectations.

Reporter Ben Rappaport can be reached at brappaport@chathamnr.com or @b_rappaport.

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