5 Bartow, 4 Cartersville students selected as GHP finalists


Summer vacation will be cut a little short this year for nine gifted high school students from Bartow County.

Five students from the Bartow County School District and four from the Cartersville City School District were notified March 30 that they had been named finalists for the 2018 Governor’s Honors Program and will spend four weeks of their summer taking advantage of a life-changing opportunity.

Students who were among the 671 finalists from across the state invited to participate in the program were Peter Germ (Science) and Banta Sesay (Music Brass: Trumpet) from Woodland High, Brianna "Necole" Gonsahn (Social Studies) and Jenna Keeler (Communicative Arts) from Cass High, home-schooled student Sarah Huffman (Dance) and Tyler Keeney (Engineering: Computer and Software Engineering), Anna Matherne (Dance), Grace Rhodes (Theater Performance) and Melissa Valdez (Technical Theater) from Cartersville High School.

Cartersville had a record number of GHP finalists this year, according to Advanced Academic Coordinator Mindy Surrett.

"To my knowledge, we have never had four finalists chosen to represent Cartersville City Schools," she said. "When I received notification of our finalist list, I had to reread the email three times to make sure that I wasn’t misinterpreting anything."

Surrett said she thinks all of the district's nominees were "excellent candidates to be chosen as GHP finalists." 

"I am so happy to see that the committee members in the areas of dance, engineering and theater agreed with me," she said. "I think having three GHP finalists in the area of fine arts speaks volumes as to how well-rounded our student body is. I am also excited to see a finalist in the area of computer programming since STEM programs are fairly new to our school."

Paula Camp, GHP coordinator for Bartow County, said she is "blown away by the talent and passion that our students display in their area of academic study" every year.

"I am truly blessed to be able to take part in this program as our students shine," she said. "The culmination of this yearlong, lengthy process is a definite reflection of our wonderful students, their parents, our community, teachers and schools. Dedication and hard work pays off and contributes to success. Bartow County could not be prouder of all of our candidates this year."

GHP is a residential summer program for gifted and talented high school students who are rising juniors and seniors, according to the GHP website. 

The program is designed to provide students with the academic, cultural and social enrichment necessary to become the next generation of global critical thinkers, innovators and leaders.

Students attend classes in specific areas of study in the mornings and afternoons and participate in a variety of social and instructional opportunities every evening.

The nomination process began in late September, with teachers nominating juniors and sophomores in the areas of agriculture science, communicative arts, dance, engineering (mechanical design, mechanical and electrical engineering and computer and software engineering), mathematics, music (instrumental and vocal), science, social studies, theater, visual arts and world languages (Chinese, French, German, Latin and Spanish).

Nearly 3,200 Georgia students were nominated by school districts to move on to the state-level competition, and more than 1,600 were selected in late January as semifinalists who would undergo state interviews or auditions.

In late March, 671 semifinalists were invited to participate in the competitive enrichment program June 17 to July 14 at Berry College in Rome, according to GHP Program Manager Ricky Parmer. 

Germ, 16, was thrilled to be chosen a finalist the first time he was nominated.

"It is a great honor to be accepted to such a prodigious program," the WHS junior said. "I am happy to see my hard work throughout the process come to fruition, and I am very humbled to receive such an honor."

Nominated by his Advanced Placement chemistry teacher, Karen Russell, Germ said he thinks GHP will "help prepare me for the future, both in college and in my career."

"This program is going to provide me with the necessary knowledge and experience to help me succeed in my future endeavors," he said. "I’d like to add that going through the entire interview process, while challenging, has been extremely valuable to me." 

The son of Gregory and Stephanie Germ of Euharlee said he is looking forward to "being exposed to the college-like atmosphere and rigor of the program."

"The unique environment of this program is going to prepare me for what to expect in college," he said.

When it came to subject areas, science was the obvious choice for Germ, who plans to study environmental engineering at either Vanderbilt University or Duke University after high school.

"I am very passionate about science, especially when it pertains to the environment," he said. "Science has always been of interest to me, and it is the subject that I find most enjoyable."

Matherne, a junior at Cartersville High, was selected for GHP after being nominated for the second time. 

"Honestly, I was really surprised, and I felt super-honored," she said. "Also, I am so excited to use what I will learn. I have really high hopes for it to be such a great experience." 

The 16-year-old said having two friends who had participated in the program in the past was the reason she wanted to take part in it. 

"I was so impressed by how much they had changed through the program," she said. "They had more confidence and knowledge. They had such excitement about the program that I had to experience it for myself." 

Since CHS doesn't have a dance program, there wasn't a dance teacher who could nominate Matherne in the subject area she wanted so Surrett nominated her. 

"I had to choose dance," she said. "It is my passion. I couldn't have chosen anything else."

A dancer for 13 years, the daughter of Gail and David Matherne of Cartersville said she is eagerly anticipating "the newness" of the Governor's Honors Program.

"Since I have been little, I have had the same teacher and peers in my [dance] classes," she said. So I am very excited to have a new experience." 

To get to the semifinals, Matherne had to perform ballet, but after that, she had to show her skills and talent in other styles of dance like jazz and contemporary.

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