In June, more than 80 students from across the state convened upon Samford University for an extensive academic, creative, and leadership experience not commonly available in either standard high school or undergraduate curricula. Among those attending the 2019 Alabama Governor’s School were two academically talented students from Oneonta High School, Justice Brown and Luke McMinn (at right).
To be eligible to participate in this intensive honors school program, students are nominated by school personnel, make application, and have their applications reviewed by a panel of distinguished educators who make selection recommendations.
Enrollment for each year’s program ranges between 80 and 90 students. The cost of the school is more then $1,500 per student. Once selected, the students are asked to pay $485 to enroll and cover incidental expenses.
Part of the application process included writing an essay. This year’s essay required the student’s analysis of the Winston Churchill quote, “Success isn’t final. Failure isn’t fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”
Brown focused on the accuracy of the quote and said she always tries to see the bright side of things. Much of her thought process comes from the strength of her aunt, who has had breast cancer twice and is “kicking it.” McMinn said he also felt the quote accurately describes life and that he has seen people who are considered “successful,” but they keep pressing on. He is really impressed by those who are successful and yet take time to help others.
Chosen students get to experience “dorm life,” as they are housed in the residential halls on campus. Both told about the experiences of living in the dorm rooms and will still consider staying on campus, if given the option, when they attend college. Their meals were provided in the university dining hall.
A typical day for the summer residential honors program included morning and afternoon three-hour classes that concentrated on incorporating exposure to current theory and extensive “hands-on” experience or fieldwork. There were seminars on values and issues, including major national and international issues, and creative and practical experiences during the 13-day experience.
Brown selected a legal class to start her day, and she selected her afternoon class as Medea: A Greek Tragedy. Her morning class included preparing for a mock trial and a field trip to the Birmingham Courthouse. The afternoon class focused on an in-depth analysis of the motive of a woman who killed her two children. They basically put her on trial during the class.
McMinn chose Art Experience for his morning class and Humor and Literature for his mid-day class. The art experience class included improvisation, story telling, sketching architectural pieces, making centerpieces for a formal dinner, and field trips to the Birmingham Museum of Art and an art studio. During the trip to the art studio, McMinn was able to meet an artist who created a piece he received as a gift a couple of years ago.
Both Brown and McMinn agreed the program was fun and interesting. Extra curricular activities included a Tacky Tourist dance, jumping into the fountain at Samford, a scavenger hunt, a talent show, bowling, attending a Birmingham Barons baseball game, and two hours of “kiddie games” at P.E.
Brown said having an open mind to new experiences and meeting new people is what made the experience successful. McMinn concurred, and added, “It was great to make make new friends and experience different cultures.”
No grade or academic credit is given for the school; however, each student who successfully completes the program receives a certificate attesting to their participation.
Brown is the daughter of Barry and Stacy Brown. She is currently in the process of applying at Yale University to pursue a degree in law, focusing on civil rights law. She has one older sister, Jasmine, and a younger sister, Bari.
McMinn wants to pursue a degree in architecture, but is undecided on which college he wants to attend. He is the son of Michael and Tammy McMinn and has four brothers, Isaac, Nick, Zack, and Jake.