NJ Governor's School Update
In previous posts, we've discussed how New Jersey cut funding for its annual summer Governor's School programs this year. Thanks to fundraising efforts by former NJ first lady Ruthi Byrne and others, the programs ran as planned.
Well, almost as planned. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry reading this article in the Daily Record, called "Despite Mishaps, Governor's School Proves Memorable for 100 Teens."
This particular Governor's school program highlighted in the article focused on international studies. Students took classes and participated in activites at Ramapo College in Mahweh, NJ. Because of the funding problems, the program was pared down from past years. Instead of visiting Quebec to study our nearest foreign culture, for instance, students were supposed to go to Washington, D.C. Due to a lack of funds, that trip got canceled too.
Then the fun really began. First, a 15-hour blackout meant students couldn't sleep in their 8-story dorm (it was deemed a fire hazard). They were allowed back in for a few minutes at 2am the night of the blackout to get their things, and then were scattered to the few available spots on campus.
Then, two-and-a-half weeks into the four week program, came the death blow: One of the campers was diagnosed with whooping cough. You're supposed to be vaccinated against this as a baby, but judging by the recent measles outbreak among kids in Indiana who weren't immunized, that's never a given anymore. Whooping cough is quite contagious, so the Bergen County health department forced the Governor's School program to evacuate the dorms. Parents had to come pick up their students by midnight.
Of course, if any of the Governor's School students do wind up working in international affairs in, say, refugee camps, they'll wind up dealing with a lack of electricity and contagious diseases quite frequently. In that sense, this program may have inadvertantly prepared them for the job...
But anyway, what struck me about reading this article is how much the kids loved being with other bright kids like them, despite the chaos. They talked about how close they became with each other, how much they loved learning. Despite the black outs, disease outbreaks and shortened programs, the kids were so grateful for the experience.
It's a shame that for most gifted kids, summer programs like Governor's school are the only opportunity to experience that joy. If NJ truly wants to help its gifted kids, it will establish Governor's school type programs that last for the whole school year (of course, they might want to check people's immunization records a bit more closely before they do).