Selection is based entirely on merit, but the success North Lenoir High School students have had in winning admission to the prestigious N.C. Governor’s School summer program can’t help but suggest some sort of succession plan is in place.
This summer North Lenoir juniors Abigail Ormand and Matthew Riddick will attend Governor’s School on its east campus at Meredith College – Abigail to study English and Matthew to study natural science.
They are the 11th and 12th students from North Lenoir chosen for the highly selective summer program in the past five years.
Governor’s School is a summer residential program for academically or intellectually gifted high school students that offers instruction in one of 11 areas of academic or artistic emphasis, as well as a broader curriculum that integrates these areas. It is the oldest program of its kind in the nation. Its two campuses – West at Salem College in Winston-Salem and East at Meredith — each accepts 325 students, mostly rising seniors, from the more than 1,800 nominations received. This year, Governor’s School begins June 17 and runs through July 25.
Students win admission after being nominated by their schools and compiling an application package that includes grades and test scores, teacher recommendations and essays that shed some light on their personal and academic interests.
Last year, Abigail’s best friend, Sydney Swindell, attended Governor’s School with North Lenoir classmate Mary George King, the kind of year-to-year connection that maintains enthusiasm and creates expectations.
“My best friend went last year and she loved it. So I was excited when I got the offer to apply,” said Abigail, the 16-year-old daughter of Anne and Allen Ormand.
“It’s really a big thing,” Matthew said. “I felt compelled (to apply) because I had a chance to do it.”
There’s no secret formula behind North Lenoir’s success, according to school counselor Rachel Wood-Hewett, who guides student applications. It’s just serious business.
“We take nominations from staff and then our scholarship committee meets to review each nominee and then we select,” she said. “Before I was a counselor, I served on this committee as a teacher and this meeting was lengthy and was taken very seriously. The nominations were really tough, but in the confidence of this group, the best students were sent as our nominees.”
What excites Matthew about science – “so much mystery,” he said, “so much that’s unknown” – also what excites him about the summer ahead.
“This really goes against me because I’m introverted,” said Matthew, the 17-year-old son of Mary and Michael Riddick, “but I look forward to meeting new people. It will be interesting to see where other people come from and what they’re interested in.”
He finds comfort in the fact that he and Abigail, his friend and classmate since the second grade, will be on the same campus. “At least I’ll know one person there,” he said
That’s some solace to Abigail, as well. “I’m very nervous because I’ve never been one to go away to summer camp or anything. It’s something new,” she said.
But that’s the expectation – new and exciting – passed down from one class to another at North Lenoir.
“They have a very busy day,” Abigail said, recounting what she’s heard about Governor’s School. “They wake up at 7 and go to bed at 11 and you’re so tired, but it’s great because you’re just doing things all the time, experiencing new things with new people.”