An alarm clock begins to blare at 7:20 a.m. in Gladding Residence Hall at Virginia Commonwealth University. Two teenagers pull themselves out of bed and start to get ready for the day
Instead of greeting each other with a "good morning," Chris Manitius turns to his roommate and mutters "bon jour." He may have chosen the French greeting because at 7:20 in the morning, mumbling two syllables instead of three saves energy but it's because he is required to converse only in French for three weeks.
Manitius, along with seven other McLean High School students, were participants in this summer’s Virginia Governor’s School, a summer residential program designed for high school juniors and seniors who exhibit an outstanding GPA and background in 7 different disciplines.
The program is fully paid-for by the Commonwealth of Virginia and students spend up to five weeks attending classes and lectures, researching and conducting projects in the 7 disciplines; which include Humanities, Visual and Performing Arts, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Life Sciences and Medicine, Engineering and Marine Sciences and Foreign Language.
In order to accommodate for each of the departments, the Governor's School program was held at the University of Richmond, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University and Christopher Newport University.
The application process is slightly different for each department, said Sheryl Johnson, the associate director of the Governor's School for Humanities and Visual & Performing Arts. The application for students applying for the Language Department included teacher recommendations, standardized test scores, a GPA, honors and activities and a written and oral proficiency test. Applications for the other six departments included the same components excluding the proficiency tests.
ALL OF THE APPLICANTS had to surpass two levels of applicant pools. The first level was the competition for a nomination by the high school and the second level was the competition for the acceptance into the Governor's School by the Virginia Board of Education.
"I wanted to attend the Spanish Governor’s School program because I enjoy speaking the language and I wanted to alter my horizons and see how I would do in a strictly Spanish-immersed society," said Cameron Jahansouz, a senior at McLean High School.
Jahansouz participated in the Spanish program, one of the three language immersion programs of the Foreign Language department. All of the students who were enrolled in the French, German, and Spanish programs were restricted to solely conversing in the respective languages.
"Through the total immersion environment, I was able to ameliorate my French and develop a familiarity with the French culture and people," said Chris Manitius, the only participant of the French program from McLean High School.
Another language offered by the Virginia Governor's School program was Latin. Since the students were not able to speak Latin, the focus was placed more on the written component of the language. One of the classes that Lisa Dunham of McLean High School and other Latin students attended was entitled "Medea," where students would translate the ancient tale into English.
Regardless of the department, all Governor's School students attended at least two classes a day.
In addition to the instruction that the students received in their daily classes, students also attended several performances and lectures.
ELLIOT ENNGEL spoke to the Humanities students about the history of the English language while the students involved in the Spanish program received a lecture about everyday life as a speaker came in and discussed what teenagers should do in their spare time in order to stay way from drugs and alcohol.
Emily Vaughn and Meg Rohlfing of McLean High School were members of the Humanities department and they took part in classes such as "Monomyth," where students would read and study mythology and "Picturing Politics," in which students observed the influence of art on politics.
While the Governor's School program placed a large emphasis on academics, students such as Rohlfing were able to learn about other things as well.
"Living in the dorms with the great people I met is my most memorable experience," said Rohlfing. "I got to meet a lot of new people and get a taste of the college experience."
In addition to the academic classes, the students of Governor's School were presented with several activities each day. Students participated in dances, talent shows, and the Foreign Language students even held a "Global Olympics." During the Olympics, each of the language departments competed in events such as balloon tosses and "Crab Soccer."
"Everyone was cheering for their players in their own language," said Dunham. "Some of the departments even came out wearing costumes. We came out wearing togas."